Access Leading Tax Experts And Technology
In Our Global Digital Marketplace

Please enter your input in search

Returning South Africans Importing Goods

It is not unusual for South Africans to live and work overseas for some years, and then at some point, usually after receiving a second nationality, to return to South Africa. Many of these persons returning to South Africa wish to bring their household goods back with them. The SA Customs and Excise Act makes provision for a concession that allows such persons to import goods without having to pay import duties and VAT.

Unfortunately, many persons encounter hiccups with the process, and Breytenbachs Advisory are aware of persons who have been kept in custody at Customs for days due to non-compliance to the prescribed process. We have subsequently provided some answers to South Africans’ frequently asked question on the import of household goods to South Africa.

Who qualifies for the concession on the import of household goods to South Africa?

If you have been abroad for six months or longer, not for tourist purposes, and during this time occupied unfurnished or semi-furnished accommodation,  you are in terms of Item 407.06 of the Schedule No 4 of the Customs and Excise Act, entitled to import certain goods, without having to pay import duties and VAT.

What goods are allowed under the concession in the Act?

Goods that are allowed include;

  1. 1. Household furniture.
  2. 2. Removable articles, such as trailers, a boat (one per family), a caravan (one per family).
  3. 3. Household effects necessary to equip a home such as; linen, curtains, crockery, computer and electrical appliances such as stoves, kettles, radios, TV’s, cameras, etc. in reasonable quantities. Reasonable quantities will be interpreted to mean a maximum of two such articles, two TV’s, etc.
  4. 4. Persons who practice a trade or profession may import their tools of the trade.

Will I be able to import my motor vehicle to South Africa, under this concession?

The Customs and Excise Act clearly exclude motor vehicles from the concession. Should you thus want to import your motor vehicle to South Africa, you will be liable to pay import duties and VAT.  Please also note that it is no longer possible to import left-hand cars to South Africa.

Will I be able to sell the imported goods and effects upon my return in South Africa?

The goods that you import under this concession may not be sold or disposed of in any way for at least six months from the date of clearance. Should you dispose of it, before the passing of this six months, you will be liable to pay the applicable duties on these goods.

Please also note that the goods must be the bona fide property of the returning South African resident. You (or a member of your household) must have owned it before the departure to South Africa, and it must be imported for personal use only. Should you not fulfil these requirements, the goods cannot be imported under this concession, and you will be liable to pay the applicable duties.

Can I send my household goods and effects to South Africa before my departure?

Customs and Excise advise that goods must preferably arrive in South Africa, after the return of the resident. If not, the goods will be kept in storage, for the person’s account.

What process must I follow if I want to make use of this concession when importing my goods to South Africa?

It is best to speak to Breytenbachs Advisory for specific guidelines in your unique circumstances. Below, however, are some pointers to keep;

Ensure that your SARS tax record is up to date. The import of goods is placed on record, using your SA green bar-coded ID. Your SARS income tax file is subsequently updated to say you have returned to South Africa.

Show ownership before departure to the foreign country. Clients are advised to ensure their furniture removals company, shipping companies and bankers make available, for permanent retention, export documents such as forms NEP and picklists used for container clearances on arrival in the foreign country.

For more advice regarding your unique circumstances or any other cross-border advice, please do not hesitate to contact Breytenbachs Advisory at or visit our website at


Hugo is a Chartered Accountant (South Africa) registered with The SA Institute of Tax Practitioners and SARS as a Master Tax Practitioner. He is in daily contact with expat South Africans (aka SAFFAS or Wegkaners) where ever they live and has lectured from LA to London and although many clients now reside in Australasia, Hugo has never visited either Australia nor NZ. Bucket List I hear you say. Hugo is also a Trust and Estate Practitioner (STEP). Cross border taxation and Exchange Control are both high on his priority, be it for emigrants, immigrants or multi-nationals.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Skype 

Subscribe to TaxConnections Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


2 thoughts on “Returning South Africans Importing Goods

  1. Avatar Jean Richard says:

    Hello Hugo,
    I am wondering if those rules also applies to a foreigner that moves to South Africa to work or retire.

Comments are closed.