Apologies that this post has taken so long to be published. I just have not had the time or motivation to write it in the last couple of weeks. I have been feeling out of sorts lately but that is a topic for another post. For now, I want to complete this series so you can start taking advantage of all the amazing specials available online. If you haven’t read the first parts of these series, please do so here so you can get your PayPal and Aramex accounts in order to shop til you drop.
So I’ve already mentioned in this post how I go about choosing where to shop and some tips and tricks for saving money and getting discounts over here. Now one thing you might notice when purchasing online is that a lot of international sites offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount. In this example from ColourPop, right on top above the logo, it says you get free international shipping if you spend $50 or more.
Don’t Do It
While it might be tempting to spend away or buddy up with a friend to place an order, trust me it’s not worth it. Let me show you why and tell you how to avoid customs.
How are customs calculated?
South African tariffs on imported goods are categorised as follows:
- 0% on agricultural products and implements, capital and intermediate goods, manufacturing inputs, essential foods.
- 15% on aircraft, vehicles, earthmoving equipment, computer software, appliances, etc.
- 40% on luxury consumer goods, for example, televisions, tape recorders, video machines, antiques, jewellery, etc.
Cosmetics and other beauty items are categorised as luxury items and therefore should incur a 40% markup on imported goods. So if you’re ordering for $50 (R670) then your customs fees ‘could be’ R335.
But that isn’t always the case
This is why I say ‘could be’. I’ve imported many items over the years and I’d like to share with you some of the customs charges I have incurred. They have been from different websites, sometimes through the post office and some through Aramex.
- Ordered the Beauty Blender Pro on the Go Black Tie Kit from Camera Ready Cosmetics along with 3 foundation samples that cost around $4 each. Total order was $59 (which was R845 at that stage), came through the post office, wasn’t charged any customs. Absolutely no customs.
- Ordered the Benefit Cheek Parade palette from Sephora which cost $58 (which was R780 at the time), had it shipped through Aramex which cost R220 just for shipping (heavier weight) and got charged R592 in customs. In total for the Benefit Cheek Parade palette, I paid R1592 and Edgars sold it for R850 a few months later.
The thing with customs I’ve come to realise is that it is unpredictable. While it might state that the fees are 40%, sometimes you can just get lucky. And the unlucky times are when they do spot checks and find liquid in your order, be it foundation, toner or a sample vial of perfume, they can send your package to Port Health.
What is Port Health?
Port Health Services monitors and evaluates all foodstuffs, cosmetics, disinfectants, hazardous substances and medicines entering South Africa through its ports, and controls and monitors the possible entering of all serious contagious diseases into the rest of South Africa. These infectious diseases include yellow fever, cholera, plague and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
And nope, the last acronym is not a pun nor my doing.
But the charges for Port Health inspection seem to vary as well. I can’t find a fee structure online but have paid between R300 to R600 just for the release of my parcel. That charge is over and above the SARS customs charges.
How do I avoid customs?
It’s not a hard and fast rule but I recommend you keep your orders under R400 to avoid customs. 90% of the time I order overseas, if I keep my orders under R400, I’m lucky not to pay anything extra but trust me, that 1% can still happen cos I’ve paid R20 customs on a R200 order before lol.
So how much customs will I incur on an order?
Honestly, from my experience, it can be anything. The amount of different scenarios is just too vast to pin it down. You could get lucky and have your parcel handled by someone at customs having a really good day. Your parcel can be released from customs with no charges but still held by Port Health. Your parcel could be slapped with a fee that exceeds your total order price. I’ve seen it all so my advice to you if you want to avoid customs is rather be safe than sorry.
I hope this post was informative and you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a shout.
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