The field of customs is commonly referred to as that of imports and exports. It is perceived as a maze of processes, procedures, and forms required to enable a customs administration to perform their wide range of responsibilities.
One of the responsibilities of a customs administration is the collection of duties, which necessitates classification of the goods in question. This study sets out to determine the extent of customs control in relation to tariff classification in South Africa. The starting point is the establishment of the foundations of customs, both internationally and in South Africa. After origin and valuation, tariff classification is the third technical customs-related focus area. An analysis of the responsibilities of the customs administration in South Africa confirms the importance of revenue collection and, subsequently, tariff classification.
As a result of South Africa’s membership of the World Customs Organization, specific obligations in relation to tariff classification are incurred. The implementation and application of the international provisions are considered and compared in South Africa, Australia, and Canada. Not only is South Africa’s existing legislation considered, but also two new Acts. It is found that despite similarities in the implementation of the Harmonized System Convention into the legislation of the three countries, South Africa’s existing legislation makes the most detailed provision for the Harmonized System and its aids. This is based on the finding that the legislation in Australia and Canada, as well as the two new Acts in South Africa, do not have the same comprehensive provisions. A critical review of the varying processes of classification in the three countries suggests that more suitable and effective processes could be implemented in South Africa. In addition, a synopsis of some of the principles developed in case law is provided and compared.
In relation to facilitation, the access to relevant information and the adequacy thereof, as well as the availability of rulings, are considered. Differences in the approach to dispute resolution in the three countries are furthermore provided. Proposals are made to address the discrepancies in the implementation and application of the legislation, the process of classification, the principles developed in case law, the enhancement of related guides, the publication of tariff classification rulings, and the extent of facilitation and dispute resolution. Finally it is recommended that an independent and expert tribunal is established to adjudicate technical customs matters.