02 March 2011

South Africa: How to claim your VAT Refund

update (05 Aug 2011): The VAT refund office at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront has been vacated and will no longer trade there.

Non-resident foreign passport holders, older than 7 years of age, on a temporary visit to South Africa are able to claim a VAT (value added tax) refund, provided that VAT was levied by the supplier, and the supplier is a VAT registered vendor, who issued you with a tax invoice that complies with the requirements of the Scheme. Only claims where the value of the goods exported at one time exceed R250.00 or more will be considered for a VAT refund. The R250.00 relates to the total value of all the invoices submitted and is not a minimum value per invoice. Goods consumed and services rendered in South Africa, do not qualify for a VAT refund. The items purchased must be exported within 90 days of the date of issue of the tax invoice, failing which the VAT refund claim will be rejected. A commission is charged to cover the administration costs of the VAT Refund Scheme. The commission is calculated at a rate of 1.3% of the VAT inclusive value, with a minimum charge of R10.00 and a maximum charge of R250.00 per refund. South African passport holders (irrespective of country of residence) and South African residents are specifically excluded from the Scheme.

Simply identify yourself as a foreign tourist to the shop assistant, and request a Tax invoice for the goods you have purchased. A Tax invoice must contain all of the following information:
  • The words Tax Invoice
  • The seller's name and address
  • The seller's VAT registration number (a ten digit number, starting with a 4)
  • The date of issue of the tax invoice
  • A tax invoice number
  • A full description of the goods purchased, second hand goods must be indicated as such
  • The cost of the goods supplied in Rands
  • The amount of VAT charged, or a statement that VAT at the rate of 14% is included in the total cost of the goods
  • In the case of purchases over R3 000.00, the purchaser's name and address and the quantity or volume of the goods must appear on the tax invoice.
Inspections must be evidenced by an endorsement on the relevant tax invoice by a VAT Refund official or a South African Customs official.

Should you depart from OR Tambo International Airport Johannesburg, King Shaka International Airport Durban or Cape Town International Airport, you must present your purchases as well as the relevant tax invoices to a VAT Refund official for inspections. If your purchases are too large to be kept as hand-luggage, you must present the goods and relevant tax invoices at a VAT Refund inspection desk or to a South African Customs official prior to the goods being checked in.
Should you depart from one of the airports or harbours listed below, you must present your purchases and the relevant tax invoices to a South African Customs official.
  • Other airports: Lanseria, Bloemfontein, Gateway, Nelspruit, Pilansberg, Port Elizabeth, Upington
  • Harbours: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, East London, Richards Bay, Mossel Bay, Saldanha
You can also visit one of our pre-processing offices at the Clock Tower at Cape Town Waterfront and Sandton City. At these offices you will be required to submit all the invoices in respect of the goods you will be exporting from South Africa, as well as your passport.

On departure from one of the three international airports, present your claim at the VAT refund office. Your refund will be made by various methods determined by the value of the claim and other factors. Payment methods include a rand cheque payable anywhere in the world. These cheques may also be cashed at the airport banking facility. Alternatively you will be issued with a VISA electron cash card that will be loaded with foreign currency after your departure from South Africa. (It should be noted that the method of payment is determined by the VAT refund departure point system and not at the option of the claimant.)

There are generally two methods of receiving your VAT refund (less than R3000.00) for claims paid on departure:
  1. A VAT refund cheque in South African Rands will be issued which can be cashed on your departure at the banking facility in the international departures area (O R Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airports only)
  2. A VISA electron cash card will be issued which will be loaded with foreign currency after your departure from South Africa. (Generally within 48 hours). The card may be used to withdraw cash from a VISA electron ATM machine or at any VISA merchant worldwide (excluding car hire, hotel accommodation and fuel purchases) To utilize the full value of funds on the card the card should be presented at a VISA merchant with the request that an amount equal to the balance on the card be debited.
VAT refundable exceeding R3000.00:
  1. Where the VAT refundable amount exceeds R3 000.00 you may be issued with a VISA electron cash card that will be loaded with foreign currency to the value of your claim once the claim has been approved for payment by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Alternatively your refund will be paid by Rand cheque, US Dollar cheque, Pound Sterling cheque or other foreign currency Bank Draft depending on the circumstances of your refund, once the claim has been approved by SARS. The approval of the claim may take up to 6 weeks. These payments will be sent by standard mail to the address provided on departure from South Africa. Track the status of your claim and obtain the balance on your VISA electron cash card using the menu items on the Home page.
For more information about the VAT Refund in South African pls visit www.taxrefunds.co.za.


  1. A good article that should stimulate the thinking. Regards, Peer

  2. We tried to use our card at a reaurant and a Grocery store in the US. It was rejected both times. Went on the South African Tax refund site and it shows that there were three attempts to use it. The amounts were not for the full amount of the card, as suggested above. This seems a little limiting if this is the case. Hopefully we can get our money and it does not go into Zuma's pocket!

  3. Visa Electron... there is almost no possibility to use it... not online... not in real life. Taxrefund gives a Visa Electron card that you can use noplace. It is a waste of your time and energy! It is theft.