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Virusha Subban

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Virusha is a partner and head of Tax in Baker McKenzie's Tax Practice Group in Johannesburg. She has over 20 years' experience in tax matters relating to customs, excise and international trade.

For the third week, we continued our Annual Compliance Conference with key customs developments impacting on businesses today. Specifically, we discussed the reform of the Union Customs Code in the EU, key trending customs developments in EMEA, and different methods of driving significant financial savings in global supply chains.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to boost intra-African trade by more than 81 percent in the next decade. To ensure such advantages are obtained, a number of AfCFTA Protocols have been developed to facilitate sustainable investment and harmonize policy and regulations across African Union member states, including a Protocol on Investment. The Investment Protocol provides the continent with a clear set of guidelines and principles to expedite financing and investment across the continent’s new free trade zone. With trade finance considered a critical enabler of cross-border investment in Africa, the Investment Protocol is also assisting development finance institutions, increasingly important in bridging Africa’s trade finance gap, to more seamlessly support such investment.

In the case of Lance Dickson Construction CC v. Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service, the High Court had to determine whether the Tax Court’s confirmation of SARS’ decision to levy understatement penalties was correct. This article discusses the decisions made by the Tax Court and, subsequently, the High Court, which have important implications for taxpayers, SARS, the courts, and tax practitioners in South Africa.

South Africa’s trade relationship with China is growing, resulting in several announcements regarding trade at the BRICS Summit in August 2023. Among the announcements was the news that Chinese companies had signed deals to buy South African products worth around USD 2.2 billion. Also announced were plans for China to import more South African beef and other South African agricultural products, as well as the donation of Chinese energy equipment worth USD 8.9 million to South Africa, in addition to a grant valued at USD 26.9 million to assist the country with its energy crisis.

Today’s global economy demands that businesses expand beyond borders, but they face hurdles from customs, as well as regulatory barriers in different countries and regions that make this expansion challenging. The South African Revenue Service Authorised Economic Operators programme offers numerous benefits for businesses trading within the regional market of the Southern African Custom Union and internationally. Such businesses include manufacturers, importers, exporters, brokers, carriers, consolidators, intermediaries, ports, airports, terminal operators, integrated operators, warehouses, distributors, and freight forwarders.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows duty- and quota-free exports from eligible African countries into the United States, is due to expire in 2025. There has been much speculation that it might be replaced with new trade agreements between the two regions that will follow the free trade policies of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement and the reciprocal trade initiatives promoted as part of the US’s Prosper Africa initiative. It has also been suggested that an evolved AGOA might be the way forward, creating an increasingly mutually beneficial trade relationship between the two regions.

The introduction of an augmented and accelerated capital expenditure deduction for the cost of constructing renewable energy infrastructure in South Africa is a boon for companies that have not yet reached their Environmental, Social and Governance goals. It provides the opportunity to undertake reportable ESG initiatives and simultaneously enjoy a reduction in tax costs. Fully leveraging this opportunity will require a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics of amended incentives and the dynamics of ESG reporting.