GUIDE TO: Calculating Import Duties and VAT

On top of the cost price of your imported goods you will need to add your freight costs, import duty tax and VAT. This will have a large impact on the landed cost of your goods and your profitability. If you are a VAT registered vendor, you may claim the VAT back. You can access calculators to calculate the final cost of your goods on our Calculators & Tools page.

How to calculate import duty:

Customs can charge import duties in four ways, namely:

  1. Free (no import duty or tax payable);
  2. Rated or specific;
  3. Ad valorum; or
  4. Compounded (combination of rated and ad valorum)

Table 1 provides an example of how each duty works.

Type of Duty Example
Rated or Specific 10 cents per square meter   or  3 cents per dozen
Ad Valorem (Fixed percentages of the value) 10% of the value or  25% of the value
Compound (combination of rated and ad valorem duties applicable to goods mentioned in the same tariff heading) 20% + 8 cents per kg


50 cents per square meter less 20%


In the Customs Tariff Book (a document listing all traded items and their duties), each item is classified by a tariff code or HS code that is the same throughout the world. Each tariff code is associated with a specific duty tax. You can access the complete tariff book in the form of our Tariff Code Lookup. Use this guide to look up the duty tax you will be liable to pay.

Note: The rate of duty you are liable to pay may differ depending on the country you are importing the goods from. If you are importing from an EU, EFTA, MERCOSUR or SADC country, different rates apply. Make sure that you look up the correct rate of duty.

You now have the duty tax percentage you will pay. Take the cost of the goods and add this amount to work out how much tax you will pay. For example:


Rated or Specific Calculation:

Volume of goods is 1000m2, Duty Tax is 30c per M2.

Total duty tax is 1000 x 30c = 30 000cents or R300.

Ad Valorem Calculation:

Cost of goods is R1000, Percentage duty tax is 25%

Total duty tax is R1000 x 25/100 = R250


Now that you have your import duty you can calculate how much VAT you are liable to pay. The VAT must be paid before your goods are cleared at customs.


You can calculate the VAT as follows:

Product price on commercial invoice (e.g. R100)

+ 10% of commercial invoice (e.g. R10)

+ duty tax (e.g. if duty tax percentage is 20% then R20 is added)

 = Total (e.g. R130).

15% VAT is levied on the Total amount.


You can perform this calculation automatically on our free VAT & Import Duty Calculator.

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