Declaring personal goods before leaving SA

South African resident?
Going abroad soon?

Lucky you.

You’ll be wondering if you need to declare your valuable personal effects to SARS before leaving South Africa, in order that you are not charged duty upon your return to the country, right?

After this alleged incident, there’s been some confusion over this, so here’s the definitive answer.


But also, Yes.

But No.

However: Yes, you do.

Unhelpful. So I looked for advice from some experts.

Flight Centre said: mmm, maybe.
traveller24dotcom said: there’s a statement from SARS.

But before we go there, here’s an interview with SARS executive Beyers Theron in which he says:

If you have your laptop or cellphones with you, you’re not required to declare that when you leave the country.

So that’s clearly a no.
And here’s that statement from SARS, in which they say:

A more user-friendly and secure process has been created where the traveller completes a TC-01 (Traveller Card) notifying his or her intent to register goods for re-importation. This is presented to the Customs Officer who will then capture this online on a Traveller declaration system (TRD1). The traveller authenticates the declaration by signing on a digital signature pad. A copy is printed for the traveller to retain as proof of registration.

Which does appear to be a yes.

And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth website. So it looks like it’s a yes.

I’m flying out of the country soon, so I had a quick look at how many flights leave SA for other countries. Then I decided that that was a bit stupid because the numbers were just too beeg for my puny microbiologist brain to handle.
So I concentrated on Cape Town.

International flights from Cape Town today:

Amsterdam, Windhoek (x3), Victoria Falls (x2), Oranjemund, Maun, Walvis Bay (x2),  Addis Ababa, Paris, London (x2), Dubai (x3), Doha, Harare and Luanda.

20 flights, including at least 2 on 747, 5 on 777s and 2 on 787s.
In off-season.

That’s a lot of flights. All of which got me wondering about just how many people were likely to be on those flights. So I looked up the most recent available statistics and found that on average, each day 2,760 people depart CPT on international flights.


Of those, how many travellers are local residents? There aren’t any recent figures, but a third seems like a reasonable assumption, based on what information is available. (Note that the figures are much, MUCH higher for JNB: ±80%.)
But back to Cape Town, because that’s where we can like to be looking at.

Approximate international travellers per day = 2,760.
So approximate locals travelling abroad = 920.

Now we have some numbers, I’can, and have been doing, some rudimentary calculations.

According to the missive above, each of those 920 people will have to go to SARS in town simply to register their personal goods (with proof of ownership for each) in order that they might not face having to pay duty on them upon their return.
Their cellphones, their watches, their laptops, their cameras.

920 locals per day = 6,440 locals each week, but since SARS is only open five days a week, that equates to 1,290 local people at that TC-01 counter each day. SARS is open 8am-4pm, so they’ll have to process 162 people per hour, or 2.7 people per minute every minute.
That’s 1 person every 22.2 seconds to ensure that everyone is accommodated and can:

avoid the inconvenience of having to explain ownership upon returning from travel abroad.

which clearly seems to be a perfectly reasonable and manageable target.

And that’s just Cape Town. And that’s just air travel.

Of course, this legislation has been in place for years and years and years, and no-one has ever fallen foul of it until some petty jobsworth SARS official at OR Tambo decided to have a pop at the ridiculously named Mr Toler Wolfe-Coote as documented above.

The can of worms has been opened. But I’m sure the our erstwhile tax agency is completely and adequately prepared to deal with the situation.