As the South African Revenue Service (Sars) implements new advance payment notification (APN) requirements next month, the changes, which have been implemented in a bid to combat illicit cash flows, 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, of over R50 000, to a supplier of imported goods. It is submitted via Sars E-filing. An Advance Import Payment, meanwhile, is any foreign exchange payment made, for the import of goods, before the goods are shipped by the supplier.
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. Of course, most understand the logic behind the decision and would eventually adapt, but they’d still have to put extra work into doing so.
According to Harry Scherzer, CEO of international payment provider Future Forex, it does not, however, have to be that way.
“As much as Sars’ new APN requirements might feel like a headache, they’re an important development,” he says. “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,” Scherzer said.
“Nonetheless, it’s still understandable that some importers would feel apprehension about the new regulations, especially if they weren’t previously aware of them,” he said. “Remember, for almost all importers the concern is growing their business. Anything that distracts from that isn’t going to be met with enthusiasm. With the right international payments partner, however, importers can adjust with little to no effort on their part.”
According to Scherzer, a good international payments provider would take care of requirements like the APN requirements for their clients. “Dealing with things such as Sars requirements should be a given for any payments provider,” says the Future Forex CEO. “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.”
He said that this level of service should apply to every aspect of currency exchange for importers, exporters and ordinary individuals. Unfortunately, he said, it was the kind of customer service that many traditional international payment providers, including banks, struggled with.
“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,” Scherzer says. “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.”
He added that was 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.”
As such, Scherzer recommends finding an international payments provider that not only understands the regulations and technicalities associated with such payments, but also places a premium on customer service.
He said that ultimately an importer wanted a provider that understood how important international payments were to their business and was 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.”
According to the Global Payments Perspectives: Exploring Key Legal and Regulatory Developments Driving and Shaping Payments around the World, a global publication of June 2021 by Norton Rose Fulbright, the payments industry continued to expand and evolve, with increasing payment volumes, new payment technologies and infrastructure and continued change in consumer spending habits leading to rapid growth in recent years. “This has fuelled a raft of new providers, increased mergers and acquisitions activity, and expanded payments-related regulation globally.”