In a previous post on importing an air rifle into SA I dealt with the situation of someone wishing to carry the rifle as hold baggage on an international flight. I covered the need to obtain an import permit of the correct type from ITAC (whose web-site is at www.itac.org.za ) and to seek permission at an early stage from the airline concerned.
In this post I consider the situation of someone wishing to buy an air rifle from a dealership abroad and to have it shipped to SA. To do this you will also need an import permit from ITAC.
Many of us are aware that there are some very attractive prices currently advertised by airgun distributors in the USA and if you have some spare cash you may decide to turn your dream into reality by buying now to take advantage of the relative weakness of the US dollar. To begin with, I will deal with some of the pros and cons of buying abroad.
The whole point of buying an airgun (and other accessories) abroad is to obtain a significantly better deal than you could get in SA. But to get it right you must do your homework. In assessing the deal, price is just one factor – albeit an important one. To answer the question ‘is it worth it in cost terms?’ you first need to establish the price you will have to pay the dealer. This includes the price of the goods, and sometimes a supplementary levy of 3-4 percent because you will be paying by credit card (the only practical method of payment). It will also include the cost of shipping.
It’s important to get a quote for shipping from the dealer and not just treat it as an inevitable ‘add-on’ to your order. In my opinion the only affordable method of shipping is by post, preferably by air mail. For a rifle and a few accessories with a total cost of say $500 US shipping could cost around $80 US – a ball park figure. My advice is don’t even think about international couriers, they charge a small fortune. So, the humble postal service gets my thumbs up, but bear in mind that SA Postal Service can refuse to handle a package that is over one metre in length. This means for some airguns that you may have to ask the dealer to remove the action and barrel from the stock to satisfy the constraint on package length. Should you insure the package? I would say that this is unnecessary because if you pay by Visa the card company will indemnify you in the event of the package being lost or stolen. But make sure you check this out with your own credit card provider.
So far we have considered the cost of buying ex-dealer. But if you intend to use your credit card to pay the dealer you need to consider the 'hidden' cost of credit. My credit card provider imposes a 2.5 per cent surcharge on foreign currency transactions. This is fairly standard but check with your card provider to make sure.
We have assumed that we know what we want - we just need to select a dealer to supply it. But alas it’s not quite as simple as that. For a start, many dealers stateside will only ship to customers in mainland USA; I’ve found few willing to ship to SA. Of those that will some of them only send goods for export orders via a high cost courier service. So you need to find a dealer willing to ship to SA via US Mail. And you don’t want just any old "pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap" box shifter. You ideally want a dealer with a passion for air rifles, one who carries spares and offers gunsmithing services since you may want a trigger tweaked or a spare set of ‘o’ rings included in your package. Do not ask the dealer to falsify an invoice or customs declaration, he will almost certainly refuse to do so, and he might just refuse to deal with you period.
The ‘what to buy?’ decision is much more subjective but for you to answer it satisfactorily you must be sure that there is a significant advantage to be gained from buying abroad. It may be that the airgun you want is not distributed in this country (in which case you should consider ordering some essential spares too) or it may be that there is a substantial price advantage. However, it would be a mistake to bypass an excellent dealer in this country for the sake of a small financial gain from buying abroad. Consider what dealer support if any you may require over the period for which you might want to keep your new pride and joy and if this is relevant my advice is don’t be too stingy to tip up a little more cash. My own decision rule would be something like: "if the cost saving associated with importing direct is less than R1,000 - forget it." But exactly where you draw the line is up to you.
To round off our discussion of importing we need to consider the question of possible liability for import duty and VAT - the final pieces of our jigsaw. Import duty is administered by SA Customs which comes under the SARS umbrella, as does VAT. Unless your particular situation exempts you from paying duty (import tax) and VAT on your airgun purchased from abroad, you will be liable to pay both at whatever rates are current. This will add significantly to total cost so you must take it into account. My advice is to check with SARS personally. You can access their web-site ( SARS Home ) and e-mail your enquiry or you can ring their call centre on a toll-free number: 0860 12 12 18 . When they respond to your enquiry they will give you a reference number and it’s worth making a note of this should you need to get back to them later. In my experience of dealing with SARS I have found their staff to be unfailingly helpful and polite.
OK let’s cut to the future: you’ve weighed everything up, you’ve ordered your airgun from a dealer in the USA and this morning you received notification from SA Postal Service that a foreign parcel labelled “airgun 0.20 calibre” on the customs declaration has arrived, addressed to you. You will need to send them a copy of your ID or passport, a copy of your import permit from ITAC and a copy of the invoice from the supplier so that they can assess liability for duty and VAT. Do not, I repeat do not falsify the invoice to try to reduce your liability – that would be a criminal offence. SARS will also make a small charge for 'clearance' i.e. the admin involved in getting your goods through Customs.
My last piece of advice is to pay up without flinching and regard your expenditure as an investment – think of how much you’ll enjoy setting up your new toy and putting it through its paces. In a day or two you will be collecting it from your local post office!
Good luck and good shooting.