On 09 July 2021, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) announced, through a media release, the formation of the SARS Private Sector Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Stakeholder Group.
The media release reads:
SARS / Private Sector Authorised Economic Operator Stakeholder Group
Border management requires a fine balance of trade facilitation, collection of the correct taxes and, at the same time, improving compliance. SARS’ eighth strategic objective acknowledges that SARS cannot do this alone, that we need to work with and through stakeholders to achieve our intent. AEO is an important intermediary to achieve this. The quid pro quo is a level of accreditation, integrity and trust that is mutually built between the parties. The AEO Programme will ensure achievement of this fine balance at the lowest possible cost, without any compromise to the revenue compliance risks the passage of goods and services across our borders represent.
SARS’ strategic intent is to work towards a system of voluntary compliance. This requires SARS to continuously place more reliance on taxpayers who choose to be compliant. Our first strategic objective is to help clarify their obligations, the second is to help them fulfil those obligations and third, which SARS does in the interests of honest taxpayers & traders, is the ability to detect and respond to non-compliance. This is in support of SARS’ vision to build a SMART, modern SARS, including Customs, system that has unquestionable integrity and can be trusted and admired. The AEO Programme fits squarely into the overall SARS strategic intent and SARS is adapting its modernisation programme to serve this strategic intent and help bring to fruition this vision. SARS Customs aims to facilitate the movement of goods & people across our borders in a way that responds to its strategic intent and vision.
SARS launched its AEO Programme in November 2020 and currently; one 137 companies, certified as accredited traders, enjoy trade facilitation benefits. Over the next four years, the programme will expand to include all supply chain actors, a simplified programme for SMMEs, a Single Government AEO Programme and a Single Southern African Customs Union (SACU) AEO Programme with augmented benefits.
Recognising that a dynamic partnership between SARS and stakeholders is essential to drive innovation and economic growth, and that the SARS’ AEO programme responds more effectively to an ever-changing environment, SARS and BUSA agreed to establish an AEO Collaborative Stakeholder Group. A jointly developed five-year work plan will culminate in regional integration of the programme by 2025.
According to the SARS Commissioner, “A chain is as strong as its weakest link. When SARS relies on partners, the integrity of the chain or supply network will be as strong as the weakest among us. It is in our interests to ensure that we collaborate to protect all of our interests. If any one of us places our narrow interests above the collective interests, we will achieve small-term gain, but will all lose in the long run.” The Commissioner and the BUSA CEO agree, “We must all act in concert and place the highest national interest as our single biggest vision – lest we detract from this balance of facilitating trade, managing the integrity of our borders and not compromising the revenue that is due to the fiscus.”
The AEO project aims to extract learnings from international best practice in the development of a collaborative, proudly South African approach to advancing trade, and protecting our fiscus and citizenry.
Story by: Riaan de Lange