VAT – Value Added Tax – is a 14% sales levy included in the price of most goods in South Africa. Some of the VAT you have paid during your stay here can be refunded to you upon your departure. What this means, in practical terms, is that if you’re planning to do some serious shopping in SA – buying a diamond, for instance – you can take 14% off the price right away!
Rules and procedures for VAT Refunds:
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- You must hold a foreign passport, and be travelling to SA on a non-resident visa.
- When making a purchase, identify yourself as a tourist to the shop assistant, and request a tax (VAT) invoice for the goods you’re buying. The tax invoice must contain all the following information:
- The amount of VAT charged, or a statement that VAT at 14% is included in the total cost of the goods.
- The quantity and full description of the goods purchased.
- A unique serialized tax invoice (VAT) number.
- Name and address of both seller and buyer.
- When departing South Africa (i.e., at the airport), go to the VAT refund counter before you check in. Present your passport, air ticket and VAT invoices together with the goods in question (which may be inspected), and have the invoices endorsed. You’ll then receive a check for the refund due to you (in South African rands).
- Check in, and pass through security.
- At the airport banks, cash your check in your home currency.
VAT refund tips:
- Informal traders can’t issue VAT receipts. Make major purchases in shops.
- VAT is not payable – and so not refundable – on most secondhand goods (like books).
- The VAT refund process is quite a hassle. Skip it if the refund owing to you is minimal.
- In Cape Town, you can reduce the hassle to some degree by visiting the VAT refund paperwork desk at the V&A Waterfront, Clocktower District, before going to the airport. Within 7 days of your departure, take your passport, air tickets and VAT invoices to this desk, to have the invoices endorsed and itemized. You can then join an express queue at the airport’s VAT desk (you still have to take the goods with you, however). For more information, call the V&A VAT desk: +27 (0) 21 405 4545.
- Instead of receiving a check at the airport, you can request your VAT refund to be placed directly on your credit card. There are some rules and delays involved; ask at the VAT desks.
- For more information on VAT, call the refund queries desk on +27 (0) 11 394 1117, or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.