Can You Get a VAT Refund on Online Purchase?

By Dave Nyam •  Updated: 01/23/24 •  5 min read

Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds for online purchases in South Africa can significantly benefit international travelers and foreign enterprises. Understanding the process of claiming VAT refunds, what items qualify for refunds, and the timing of refunds is essential. This guide explores the eligibility criteria and steps to get a VAT refund for online purchases in South Africa.

Can You Get a VAT Refund on Online Purchase?

Yes, you can get a VAT refund on online purchases in South Africa, but there are specific requirements and procedures to follow. VAT refunds are primarily intended for tourists and foreign enterprises that purchase while in the country. Here’s how you can claim a VAT refund for online purchases in South Africa:

How Do I Claim VAT Back in South Africa?

  1. Eligibility: To claim a VAT refund in South Africa, you must be a qualifying purchaser. Qualifying purchasers are typically foreign tourists or enterprises not registered for VAT in South Africa.
  2. E-commerce Transaction: When engaging in online transactions in South Africa, the identical VAT refund regulations that pertain to in-store purchases are also applicable. Confirm that the online merchant furnishes a legitimate tax invoice for your transaction.
  3. Invoice Verification: A valid tax invoice is fundamental for asserting a VAT refund. This invoice requires precise details, such as the retailer’s identity, VAT registration number, item delineation, and the levied VAT amount. Before any online purchase, ensure the receipt of a compliant tax invoice.
  4. Goods Taken Out of South Africa: You can claim a VAT refund on items you take out of South Africa, whether purchased in physical stores or online. These items should be for personal use or to be used by your foreign enterprise.
  5. VAT Refund Card: Once you have the necessary documentation, you can submit a VAT refund claim. This claim can be made at the airport or any VAT Refund Administrator’s office. After claim processing, you’ll receive a VAT Refund Card featuring the VAT refund sum.
  6. VAT Redress Card Utilization: Maximize the VAT Redress Card for transactions or translate it into real money. It constitutes a hassle-free approach to acquiring your VAT reimbursement and relishing duty-free shopping.

On What South African Items Can You Claim VAT?

In South Africa, you can request VAT reimbursements for numerous acquisitions made during your stay, whether online or in brick-and-mortar outlets. Below is a compilation of typical items eligible for VAT refunds:

  1. Precious Jewelry and Timepieces: High-end jewelry and watches frequently captivate tourists. You can initiate VAT refunds for these acquisitions when they adhere to the requisite conditions.
  2. Electronics: South Africa offers a variety of electronic products, and tourists often buy items like cameras, laptops, and smartphones. VAT refunds apply to these purchases.
  3. Fashion and Garments: Irrespective of whether you purchase attire for yourself or as keepsakes, you can apply for VAT reimbursements on clothing articles.
  4. Souvenirs and Presents: Goods bought as presents or memorabilia are qualified for VAT reimbursements if they satisfy the necessary prerequisites.
  5. Artistry and Handicrafts: South Africa boasts a vibrant art and craft culture. If you purchase artwork or handicrafts, you can seek a VAT refund.
  6. Cosmetics and Perfumes: Beauty products, including cosmetics and perfumes, can also be included in your VAT refund claim.
  7. Leather Goods: Items like handbags, wallets, and leather accessories are eligible for VAT refunds.
  8. Homeware: If you buy homeware items during your stay, like ceramics or furniture, you can claim VAT refunds on these purchases.
  9. Outdoor Equipment: South Africa’s diverse landscapes are a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. You can claim VAT refunds on items like camping gear and sports equipment.
  10. Books: Whether you’re buying fiction, non-fiction, or academic books, they are also eligible for VAT refunds.
  11. Musical Instruments: You can seek a VAT refund if you purchase musical instruments.

It’s important to note that the total value of the items you’re claiming a refund for must exceed a certain threshold, typically R250. Keep all the tax invoices for these purchases, as they are essential for processing your VAT refund claim.

When Can VAT Be Refunded?

The duration for VAT reimbursements in South Africa might differ but generally occurs following your departure. Below is what you should understand about the timing of VAT refunds:

  1. Time for Processing: Processing durations for VAT refunds can fluctuate, typically ranging between three days to three months after your departure from South Africa, contingent upon the sum involved. Larger refunds may take longer to process.
  2. At the Airport: Many tourists claim their VAT refunds at the airport before leaving South Africa. This allows for a quicker refund process. You can visit the airport’s VAT Refund Administrator’s office, submit your documents, and receive your VAT Refund Card on the spot.
  3. Offline Claims: If you don’t claim your VAT refund at the airport, you can still do so at any VAT Refund Administrator office within South Africa. However, this may take longer to process as it involves mailing the refund card to your overseas address.
  4. Online Claims: Some VAT Refund Administrators offer online refund claim services, allowing you to submit your claim electronically. This can be more convenient, but the processing time may still vary.

For a smooth VAT refund process, it’s essential to retain all the required documentation, including tax invoices. Be sure to check with the specific VAT Refund Administrator you plan to use for their procedures and processing times.

Conclusion

In conclusion, getting a VAT refund on online purchases in South Africa is possible for qualifying purchasers, including tourists and foreign enterprises. Ensure you possess the required tax invoices and documents, fulfill the minimum purchase threshold, and adhere to the correct refund procedure. The timing for the reimbursement can differ. Hence, plan accordingly, particularly if you’re leaving the country. VAT refunds can enhance your shopping experience in South Africa, enabling you to economize on taxes and relish the items you’ve bought.

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