Importing Wedding Dresses


South African residents have been increasingly taking advantage of affordable clothing, especially wedding dresses manufactured and sold from the far east, including China.

What is often unknown is that clothing such as wedding dresses will attract an import duty rate of 40% of the purchase price payable to customs.

Please read below for more critical information before making your purchase.

As with all shipments arriving into South Africa, they must be accompanied with correct customs paperwork.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) and related customs authorities have noticed a large number of clothing and wedding dresses arriving into South Africa with a stated value which is significantly lower than the amount which the customer has paid.

This is often done to allow the importer to pay a reduced amount of duties and taxes, however the importer, clearing a shipment with incorrect customs paperwork may be liable for a fine by customs, even though they didn’t complete the paperwork themselves.

To make this process as easy and transparent, please read the following steps.

Firstly, you should ask the sender to email you the commercial invoice before sending the shipment, this allows you to ensure all paperwork is correct.

Look for the following.

  1. Ensure the invoice says commercial invoice on it. If it is not a commercial invoice it will face problems when clearing customers
  2. Ensure that the stated value for the wedding dress is the same as what you paid for it. You may be asked to provide a proof of payment to customs to show that the value of the dress is what you paid for. If these values are different, SARS may issue a fine for a false declaration
  3. Ensure that everything you have ordered is stated as an individual line on the invoice. If you have ordered shoes, a scarf and a dress, there should be 3 separate lines on the invoice stating this, each with their own value and a full description. ‘Clothes’ is an unsuitable description. Each different item of clothing should be described separately
  4. Ensure your contact details, ideally mobile phone number and email address is stated clearly and correctly on the invoice. This will allow DHL to contact you before the shipment even enters the country to arrange payment of duties and taxes

Finally, once you are happy that the invoice is correct, please instruct the sender to include this paperwork. Don’t forget to factor in a duty of 40% on top of the shipment value before making your purchase.