Advancement to the SARS African Traveller Declaration System

By Jamie du Plessis

On the evening of November 17, SARS addressed South Africans in general and the tourism industry in particular. The purpose of the gathering of keynote speakers was to inform travellers about the soon-to-be-implemented African Traveller Declaration system.

SARS is working to simplify the process for both domestic and international travellers as well as those working in the tourism sector. They are also advancing toward compliance with international standards to match other nations that have implemented mandatory declarations over the past five to ten years.

To simplify the process for everyone concerned, including legitimate traders and travellers, the first phase of implementation of the online traveller declaration system will be tested at King Shaka International Airport on November 29 on a voluntary basis. Then, in 2024, it will be formally put into effect at all ports of entry.

The Application of the SARS African Traveller Declaration System

Families can complete the form with the principal adult traveller, adding minors under the accompaniment and voluntarily providing a declaration on their behalf.

It was emphasised that the system is not meant to be malicious but to make the process as simple as possible and to guarantee that laws are followed. Going paperless allows for smoother processes, and it adds value to all stakeholders.

Beyers Theron, the Director of Customs Border Control, Ports of Entry, and Compliance Management at South African Revenue Service (SARS), went on to explain, “the value in a declaration system lies in the ability to manage the risk on such declaration. And then applying our resources to non-compliance rather than pestering or holding up the greater sum of travellers who are compliant in all terms of regulatory requirements.”

He stated, “the increase in global money laundering, terror financing, the incentive in smuggling small quantity but high-value illicit goods, the customs world and for that matter other border regulators are increasingly demanding mandatory upfront traveller declarations.”

The system is meant to assess the ease and complexity of the process based on compliance with the law and that it becomes simpler for everyone involved when there is:

  • Automation
  • Electronic declarations received well in advance
  • Ability to corroborate data through third parties
  • Application of risk management

Implementation Plans and Stakeholder Collaboration

Mandla Gugushe, who is responsible for project management, stated, “we hope to start the rollout in 2023, and within that vision, we hope that by 2024 we shall have covered all the ports, including land and sea modalities.” This indicates that it will also be used at land border crossings for travellers and at seaports in addition to airports.

When viewing the mandatory implementations set by other countries on a global scale over the past five to ten years due to illicit crime, Theron comments, “It is for this same reason that the South African Revenue Service, as part of the broader customs modernisation smart border project will be implementing the South African Traveller Management System at all South African ports of entry.”

“The system, when fully implemented, will also include online payment, a green lane or fast track trusted program for travellers and collaboration with stakeholders such as airline and travel agencies that have access to additional sources of passenger data in order to enhance our risk profiling but also to use those key stakeholders as partners in providing clarity and certainty to travellers. Stakeholders are also encouraged to participate on published rules to the customs act incorporated in the online declaration system. SARS values your partnership as our critical stakeholders.”      

They will adopt the usage of the SARS app to fill out the declaration form, which they have yet to launch outside of the test phase, along with a serious consideration of establishing kiosks at the pertinent sites to complete the forms.

Money Declaration at the Airport

Paul Lowe, Manager at O.R. Tambo International Airport, went on to elaborate on the declaration process for excess currency and that the declaration system stating the amount of money that is being carried by a passenger applies to both inbound and outbound travellers. It was emphasised that the source of the money needs to be declared as that is one of the most important aspects of capturing it within the system.  

He commented, “In terms of the excess currency policy, a traveller is allowed to carry 25,00 south African rand before declaring upon exit and upon entry. Where your traveller, for example, has 50,000 or 100,000 South African rand cash in his possession, that traveller needs to make a declaration to customs at international departures. Now coming to foreign currency, it is also important that if a traveller has a substantial amount of foreign currency, that he now approaches customs and presents the foreign exchange control declaration. Which he would have done at commercial banks with the forex, and customs will then check and determine if the money was indeed exchanged because the banks will then give you the stamped form with a bank impression.”

It is encouraged by SARS to use representative body organisations to communicate your feedback, opinions, or questions. SARS will continue to remain available to party representatives to engage with the community and clarify anything you would like them to clear up.

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