My contract ends at the end of February, so I’m starting to make arrangements for getting back home. One of the things that has been bothering me a lot is getting stopped by customs at Jo’burg International Airport (OR Tambo/Jan Smuts or whatever it’s called this week). The thing is I’ve spent quite a bit of money on some toys in Korea, including Ipods, an Ipod hifi, Nintendo DSs and an Apple MacBook.
These are pretty expensive items, so I’ve been worried that SA customs would stop me and confiscate these items, or slap me with a huge duty. And this would add up to quite a bit.
Thankfully some people mentioned that if you are a returning resident, and have been out of SA for more than six months at a stretch, you can bring back personal items without being subject to duties or tax. But the SARS website (and the SA internet in general) has so little information on these things that I was still a bit worried. So last night I phoned the SARS head office in Pretoria, my old home town (SARS is responsible for customs). I spoke to Gideon, who was really helpful, and told me without hesitation that what I had heard is true. If you have been out of SA for six months at a stretch you aren’t subject to tax or duties on any personal items that you bring with you. All you need to do, if you are stopped, is prove that you have been out of the country for that time, and that the items are for personal use.
This is easy. Your passport will have your exit stamp from when you left SA , and no subsequent entry stamp. So pretty easy to show that you haven’t been home. Also, if you bring back personal items (and I’m thinking laptops here) you can just show how bashed and used it is. Well, that’s how mine looks, anyway. So I’m not too worried about this.
Of course if you bring something back that’s brand new and still in its packaging, you may have a harder time convincing the customs guys that it’s for personal use and not resale. But for me, this isn’t a worry.
This really makes me a lot more relaxed about going home. Thankyou SARS for your clear and quick response!