Launch of Customs Preferred Trader Programme

Pretoria, 8 May 2017 – Today saw the official launch of the South African Revenue Service’s Customs Preferred Trader Programme. This marks the culmination of an extensive process aimed at introducing one of the most significant trade facilitation initiatives in SARS’ customs modernisation journey.
Currently, 28 Customs clients have been awarded Preferred Trader accreditation status following a lengthy period of audits and customs competency assessments.
The Preferred Trader journey began in 2011 after extensive benchmarking and consultations with trade. It was set up under the World Trade Organisation’s internationally recognised Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme. 
The main objective of the Preferred Trader Programme is to move away from the traditional Customs gate-keeper approach, to a more risk-based approach.  Compliant traders will receive benefits as stipulated in legislation for accredited clients.  This will reduce the frustrations and the costs that can be incurred by traders who are operating in the global market.
In broad terms, the Preferred Trader Programme is a relationship between a Customs client and SARS Customs in order to:
  • Achieve benefits for both parties
  • Stamp out misconduct and fraudulent activities
  • Obtain and maintain a high level of compliance
  • Promote legitimate trade facilitation.
Some of the benefits to trade include:
  • The appointment of a Customs Relationship Manager tasked with facilitating the relationship between the client and Customs
  • Reduction of the amount of security required for compliance with a Customs procedure
  • Fewer routine documentary and physical inspections
  • Prioritising a request for tariff and valuation determinations
  • Prioritising access to non-intrusive inspection techniques when goods are stopped or detained for inspection.
A specialised Preferred Trader team has been set up by SARS to handle applications and audits, while an Accreditation Review Customs Committee at SARS head office makes a final decision on all accreditation submissions. Currently over 250 Customs clients are going through the Preferred Trader accreditation process and with a dedicated team and process now set up, it is envisaged that all these outstanding applications will be processed speedily in the coming months.
All importers and exporters may apply for Preferred Trader status if they meet certain compliance criteria. For more information, interested parties can email or go to the SARS website: