Invoice as a Certificate of Origin

          There have being allot of rumors regarding the applicability of a COO (Certificate of Origin) form over the past few years. Some say that SARS have done away with the need to produce a DA 59 (the form traditionally used to as a COO).  

          But first, a generic COO form is different from an “origin certificate” related to trade agreements, i.e. EUR1 Form, SADC Certificate, and so forth. I have often seeing people confuse a COO form for a EUR1 certificate, thereby using it to benefit from a preferential rate of duty when not entitled to such. This is a classical mistake because the COO forms issued by some foreign Chambers of Commerce look similar to those used in trade agreements. The secret is to read what the respective form actually stands for, i.e. EUR1 versus Certificate of Origin. Do not take the look of the form for granted.

          The SARS DA 59 or COO does in fact still exist and is still in use. My understanding of what happened which led to the confusion regarding the use of the DA 59 came when SARS published a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) containing minimum Invoice Requirements (the most recent revision is number SC-CF-30 dated 31 March 2011). The SARS SOP states that the “country of origin” must be reflected on the commercial invoice as a minimum requirement. Therefore, in industry circles it became generally accepted that the origin of goods may be specified on the invoice in lieu of a DA 59.

          In some ways, the invoice can be regarded as a certificate of origin, although SARS do still reserve the right to verify the authenticity of origins.

          In specific instances, the DA 59 Form may still be requested by SARS in order to verify such things as anti-dumping, safeguarding and countervailing duties, and import restrictions.

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Invoice Discounts

          Most small discounts of a few percentage points may be acceptable to SARS when clearing goods through Customs. The problem arises when the discounted amount is excessive.

          Naturally, the Customs legislation requires that any / all discounts must be reflected on the commercial invoice. The nature or type of discount must also be reflected on the invoice, i.e. 5% discount for advance payment.

          Determining whether the percentage of discount is excessive or not, requires knowledge of one’s industry. Anything outside of industry norms will be regarded as excessive. In any event, any discount of more than 2 – 5% will likely result in a Customs valuation investigation of some sort. The Customs intervention of discounts is important for:

·         Determining if duty and Vat is being avoided

·         Anti-competitive behavior affecting the domestic economy

·         Generally protecting the domestic economy

Unfair competition normally arises when the buyer and seller are related to one another, and if such a relationship is restrictive in any way or form. In other words, if the relationship restricts other parties in the importing country from benefiting from the same discount.

          The type of discount being offered, and when the discount was offered will also affect the applicability of the discount in the Customs valuation. Generally, discounts must have being offered and applied prior to the shipment being dispatched. In other words, the discount must have being an element in fixing the price. Also, the consignee must have earned the discount legitimately.

          The SARS Policy SC-CR-A-05 dated 24 January 2014 titled Method 1 Valuation on Imports provides an array of important information regarding discounts. If in doubt, this policy should be consulted in depth.

          In the same vein, any commissions, royalties, kickbacks and the like must also be reflected on the commercial invoice.