One of the responsibilities of a customs administration is the collection of
customs duties on imported goods. This necessitates the tariff classification
of the goods in question. As a result of South Africa’s membership of the
World Customs Organization, specific obligations in relation to tariff
classification are incurred. Tariff classification is a highly technical and
intricate undertaking, subject to both national and international law.
Especially the implementation and application of the international
provisions result in varying interpretations by stakeholders. This, inevitably,
results in disputes. This article discusses the position in South Africa
regarding customs tariff classification dispute resolution and compares the
South African provisions and practices with those in Australia and Canada.
The differences in the approach to dispute resolution in the three countries
are critically analysed. In conclusion it is recommended that South Africa
should consider introducing an independent tribunal along the lines of the
tribunals established in Australia and Canada, or, alternatively, extending
the jurisdiction of the Tax Court to include customs duty disputes.