Alternatives to the enforceability of VAT on imported digital purchases in South Africa
Since the introduction of the Internet and the platform it created for cross-border trade, the effective enforcement and administration of consumption taxes relating to imported digital services has been an international topic of discussion and research. South Africa amended the VAT Act in 2013 in order to make provision for and clear some uncertainties relating to VAT on imported digital services. In this study, the South African VAT Act was compared to the New Zealand GST Act as well as the recommendations made by the OECD and it is submitted that the amended South African VAT Act is in general in line with the GST Act of New Zealand and the OECD recommendations with some exceptions. It could be submitted that the VAT application relating to digital services is in essence the same as traditional transactions with specific challenges due to the nature and characteristics of the digital environment. Global legislation relating the privacy of consumers worldwide as well as identification of jurisdiction of consumers of digital services remain a global challenge which adversely affects the current application of the VAT Act as well as the administration of VAT relating to imported digital services. It is submitted that the use of audit as an enforcement tool for VAT on imported digital services might be regarded as ineffective at present due to challenges experienced by foreign suppliers and tax authorities to identify jurisdiction of consumers. It is submitted that the current application of “country-based” VAT legislation should be investigated further together with other possible solutions that take into consideration cyberspace legislation in order to possibly find a more practicable and enforceable solution to international trade with e-commerce as platform.