Export incentives – part 1

Export incentives are intended to encourage exports by providing financial assistance to exporting companies to enable them to compete effectively in international markets. Whilst they have been widely used internationally, some are regarded as contrary to both the spirit and word of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Consequently, the more blatant forms of export incentives will be phased out by countries, probably to be replaced by forms of assistance more compatible with the free trade objectives of the WTO. Such assistance programmes would be those designed to restructure, along more efficient and competitive lines, industrial sectors as a whole and not merely subsidise exports; general assistance with export marketing costs, which do not translate directly into price subsidies, are also acceptable.


Export incentives currently in operation in South Africa include:

Export Marketing and Investment Assistance Scheme (EMIA)
Sector Assistance Scheme (SSAS)
Export Credit Insurance
Export Finance

Other forms of supply-side measures include:

Structural adjustment programmes for industry
Innovation Support Programmes
Competitiveness Programmes
Development Finance
Private Sector Assistance
Specialist Services

Certain outcomes are required as part of the broader role of the Department of Trade and Industry to achieve sustainable activity and employment and these are incorporated in the incentive programmes:

promoting development of small, medium and micro- enterprises (SMME’s);
increasing opportunity for black economic empowerment (BEE);
women empowerment (WE);
reducing inequality and poverty;
strengthening international competitiveness of South African business and;
developing the SADC region.

Export Credit Insurance via The Export Credit Insurance Corporation

The ECIC provides export credit and foreign investment insurance cover on behalf of the government.

The ECIC, an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, aims to facilitate and encourage South African export trade by underwriting export credit loans and investments outside the country to enable South African contractors to win capital goods and services’ contracts in other countries.
Website: www.ecic.co.za

Credit Guarantee Insurance Corporation

Offers exporters insurance covering domestic or international debtors, which means exporters are protected against non-payment. IDC is a shareholder of the company.
Website: www.creditguarantee.co.za

Customs and Excise duty refunds

Provision is made in the Customs and Excise Act for general refunds, as well as a large number of specific drawbacks and refunds of customs and excise duties, to exporters. These concessions are available to manufacturers as well as to merchants who import goods for re-export.
Website: sars.gov.za

VAT Export Incentive Scheme

Exporters may zero-rate VAT on exports regarded as a direct export. Applicable to exporters registered as VAT vendors in South Africa. You must be registered with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to export commercial goods from South Africa.
Website: sars.gov.za

12I Tax Allowance Incentive

The 12I Tax Incentive is designed to support Greenfield investments (i.e. new industrial projects that utilise only new and unused manufacturing assets), as well as Brownfield investments (i.e. expansions or upgrades of existing industrial projects). The incentive offers support for both capital investment and training.

Tariff Restructuring Programme

As a result of South Africa’s membership of the WTO, import tariff levels are also being reduced and the import tariff listing is also being simplified by reducing the number of tariff headings which means combining a number of items.

Note 1: All claims for benefits payable by DTIC (exporters/claimants) must be accompanied by a new form called a Declaration of Good Standing Regarding Tax, issued by the South African Revenue Service. The completed and signed form should be sent to DTIC for the attention of the Directorate Financial Assistance Schemes.

Note 2: All applications for DTIC financial assistance schemes are subject to approval and are not automatic.

Note 3: Export incentives relate only to the export of goods destined for recognised export markets, which in general means to countries outside the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

Sector Assistance Scheme (SSAS)

Financial assistance is available to industry sectors with the objectives of developing new export markets; broadening the export base; stimulating the participation of SME’s in the export sector, promoting black economic empowerment (BEE) and women empowerment (WE) within the overall objective of job creation.

Organisations eligible to apply for assistance from the scheme include:

Export Councils formally approved by DTI. An Export Council is a Section 21 (non-profit) company that serves to represent the developmental and promotional objectives of a particular industry on a national level, where the needs of that industry justify the formation of an Export Council and where the identified industry falls within DTI’s key priority sectors.
Recognised Industry Associations; and
Joint Action Groups (JAGS) consisting of three or more companies which associate for the primary objective of embarking on project/s that benefit industry or industries as a whole.

Note: All applications for DTI financial assistance schemes are subject to approval and are not automatic.

Assistance for Export Councils is a grant of R50 000 for the establishment of an export council and a matching grant of membership income, where DTI funds the Export Councils up to R500 000 per year for the purpose of operational costs.

Project funding is available to all qualifying applicants (export councils, industry associations and JAGS) for specific projects which will contribute to the development and promotion of an industry as a whole. DTI will partially refund between 50% and 80% of the cost of approved projects.

Additional assistance is also available to all qualifying applicants which includes, on a matching grant basis, annual maximums of R250 000 for generic advertising and publicity; R100 000 for specific marketing materials (export directories, video, CD’s) and R100 000 for local trade exhibition assistance (See EMIA).

Applications for project funding should be submitted to the Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA) industry sector co-ordinator at the beginning of each financial year. Claimants may claim according to milestones achieved on a project or on completion of the entire project. A report on achievements and details/proof of the outcomes of the project i.e. results, performance indicators and variance, must be submitted.

Applications for additional financial assistance must be discussed with and approved in writing by TISA before any project-related expenses are incurred.

Applicants for the matching membership grant must provide TISA annually with a reconciliation of membership fees received. Loans from banks or other sources will not be considered as a contribution from Export Councils.

Other Forms Of Assistance / Supply-Side Measures

The following forms of assistance are also available to South African companies. Many of them are not aimed specifically at the export sector but have the objective of encouraging or improving international competitiveness of South African industry. The mere objective of achieving global competitiveness implies that industries should be enabled to export competitively. Many of these schemes have been available for some time; some have been introduced recently.

These include:

An allowance for the appointment of agents in an export market: (Section 17 of the Income Tax Act). (See Agency Contracts for detailed information)

Exemption from value added tax on export sales: (See detailed information in the section entitled Value-Added Tax in South Africa.)

Customs and Excise duty rebates, drawbacks and refunds: Under the Customs and Excise Act of 1964 (as amended) provision is made for the refund, drawback or rebate of duties on goods exported from South Africa.

Refunds are paid in respect of duty overpaid or duty paid on goods which are exported in the same condition as that in which they are imported.
Drawbacks are paid in respect of duty paid on specified materials used in the manufacture, processing, packing, etc., of goods which have been exported.
Rebates (i.e. where duty is not paid at all) are granted in respect of goods used for specific purposes (i.e. for production of export goods, or as an industrial rebate for goods produced not specifically for export). (See Customs Duty Refunds, Drawbacks and Rebates, for detailed information).

Structural Adjustment Programmes for Certain Industries (examples)

Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP):

The objective of the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP) is to increase competitiveness and productivity within the industry. The programme is administered by Board on Tariffs and Trade (BTT). MIDP enables local vehicle and component manufacturers to increase production runs and encourages rationalisation of the number of models manufactured by way of exports and complementing imports of vehicles and components. In terms of the MIDP, the customs duty on specified components imported by manufacturers of light, medium and heavy motor vehicles and components can be rebated to varying extents.

Development programme for the textile and clothing industry:

The objective of this development programme was to achieve international competitiveness within the industry.

Specific duties: Minimum and minimum specific duties have been removed.

Rebate items: All rebate items are being phased out except for those items which have fallen into disuse and which will be withdrawn with immediate effect. However this provision does not affect the rebate provisions for export manufacturing 470.03 and the Duty Credit Certificate Scheme.

Duty Credit Certificate Scheme: The objective of the DCCS is to encourage textile and clothing manufacturers to compete internationally, independent of government subsidies. A duty credit certificate indicating the value of the duty credits will grant the participant credit to this value on duties payable by him on the importation of certain prescribed textile and clothing products. Benefits are granted subject to participation in the Performance Measurement Programme (PMP) and the achievement of certain Performance, Training and Export targets. The PMP is administered by the National Productivity Institute on behalf of the DTI.

Part 2 of this article address more incentives. Please read that article too.

Author Craig Tonkin

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