South Africa embarks on modernization of national advance ruling system

01 December 2021

Determined to align country’s national advance ruling system on the relevant international standards, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has embarked on an ambitious project to carry out a comprehensive overhaul of the system. Implementation of this project was thoroughly discussed during a national workshop, which took place in Pretoria, South Africa, from 15 to 17 November 2021. The workshop was organized in cooperation with the EU-WCO Programme for Harmonized System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme) and the HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD Programme.

Before the workshop, the SARS had conducted a self-diagnostic study to identify gaps in the existing national advance ruling system as against the standards of Article 3 of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The study revealed some areas where improvement of the system would be warranted to render it more efficient and user-friendly, and to align it on the WTO standards. Based on the diagnostic study, the SARS developed a detailed business case to implement the required change of the system.

In her opening remarks, Mrs. Thabile Ntombela, Head of SARS International Cooperation, welcomed workshop participants and expressed her appreciation to the WCO for its support with regard to the implementation of the HS and the WTO-TFA. She reiterated the importance of advance rulings as a means to ensure certainty and predictability of trade transactions for economic operators, and SARS’ unwavering commitment to upgrading country’s advance ruling system, stressing a need for a strategy and a clear roadmap for this project.

The workshop was attended by senior specialists from across different units of the SARS, as well as the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the National Trade Facilitation Committee. Following an in-depth analysis of the situation, workshop participants agreed on the way forward, highlighting the need for comprehensive legislative amendments as well as development of a digital web-based tool to support the functioning of the system. These changes will be implemented with the joint support and funding by the HS-Africa Programme and the HMRC-WCO-UNCTAD Programme.

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