Now that overseas gift won’t cost you: Sars gets generous after 22 years

13 October 2016 - 13:09 By WENDY KNOWLER

Good news for those who have loved ones overseas - you can now receive gifts from them without first having to pay hefty customs duty and VAT at the Post Office counter.

That’s because SARS has finally increased the rand value of parcels considered to be gifts, and therefore fee exempt - and quite dramatically, too.

For 22 years, that limit was the rand equivalent of just R400. Anything more than that and the parcel forfeited its gift status and the fee exemption fell away.

That low limit remained unchanged despite the rand devaluing in recent years to the point that a gift sent from the United States with a declared value of just $28 - the price of a T-shirt - was regarded as a non-gift, thus attracting customs fees and VAT.

Those who declared fairly modest foreign currency gift values on South-Africa bound parcels, not realising that the Rand-equivalent disqualified the parcel as a gift, created a huge financial burden for friends and loved ones on the receiving end.

Now, without fanfare, that amount has been increased to a far more appropriate R1400.

That’s the equivalent of US $97, UK ₤80, 88 Euros, and Aus$ 129.

It’s a boon for those expecting Christmas parcels from abroad this year, but small comfort for those who have recently paid a small fortune in fees in order to collect their gift, or, worse, couldn't afford to collect it at all.

Marianne Mitchell wrote to In Your Corner earlier this year to say that her daughter in the UK sent her other daughter in Westville, KZN a handbag, reflecting its full value of ₤66 on the packaging.

“The Westville Post Office demanded R729.34 from her before they’d give her the handbag: R429 custom duties, R280.30 VAT and a R20 ‘clearance fee’.

“I have ended up paying this amount, but I have advised my daughter never to send another parcel or else learn to be dishonest and state that the gift is worth a lot less..”

If she had sent that handbag this month, the ₤66 would have fallen well within the ₤80 gift limit, and her sister could have collected it without paying a cent.

Here’s how it works, according to SARS:

A person can receive two gifts per calendar year, of which the value must not exceed R1 400 for each parcel on which the duty will be rebated.

The following consumables are excluded from the rebate:

- Wines

- Spirits

- Tobacco (Including cigarettes and cigars)

- Perfume

Customs charges: Should the value of the parcel exceed R1 400, customs charges will be paid on the total price actually paid for the item.