On 1 December, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) will implement new advance payment notification (APN) requirements in a bid to combat illicit cash flows. The changes will impact all import payments valued at R50 000 and above.
An APN is an application made by an importer to give notice of the intention to make an advance import payment in excess of R50 000 to a supplier of imported goods. It is submitted via Sars eFiling.
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An advance import payment is any foreign exchange payment made for the importation of goods before the goods are shipped by the supplier.
As much as Sars’s new APN requirements might feel like a headache, they’re an important development.
With the new APN requirements, Sars will be better able to track advance import payments and eventually bring additional efficiencies to the customs clearance process.
However, many importers, already frantically trying to meet end-of-year orders, will feel that the changes are yet another complication in what can already be a complex space.
They may also feel some apprehension about the new regulations, especially if they weren’t previously aware of them. For almost all importers their primary concern is growing their business. Anything that distracts from that isn’t going to be met with enthusiasm.
Most understand the logic behind the decision and would eventually adapt – but would still have to put extra work into doing so. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right international payments partner, importers can adjust with little to no effort on their part.
Dealing with things such as Sars requirements should be a given for any payments provider. Its job is to ensure that payments are as seamless as possible, and it cannot claim to do that if it doesn’t have the expertise to guide its customers through things like regulatory changes.
This level of service should apply to every aspect of currency exchange for importers, exporters, and ordinary individuals.
Unfortunately, it’s the kind of customer service that many traditional international payment providers – including banks – struggle with.
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While traditional currency exchange providers such as banks undoubtedly have the technical capabilities to facilitate international payments for importers and others, they tend to fall short on customer service.
We all know how difficult it can be to get assistance from a bank, even on fairly mundane transactions. You can spend hours on the phone being pushed from pillar to post, only to come out even more confused than when you first made the call.
That is no less true for importers and international payments. Unless you’re a really big player in the sector, your bank likely sees you as just a number and won’t give you the tailored assistance you need.
An international payments provider should not only understand the regulations and technicalities associated with such payments but also place a premium on customer service.
Ultimately, you want a provider that understands how important international payments are to your business and is fully committed to making them as seamless as possible. More than that, they should be able to provide you with detailed, knowledgeable assistance with payment queries when you need it most.
Harry Scherzer is CEO of Future Forex.