A South African perspective on value-added tax on international mobile telecommunication services

03 May 2016

The purpose of the article is to explore the VAT practices of mobile telecommunication service providers in South Africa. First, literature dealing with the general VAT principles in South Africa such as the VAT Act No. 89 of 1991 and that of other countries was considered, where after the Melbourne Agreement, which specifically deals with the VAT on international telecommunication services, was considered. As the provisions of the general VAT principles as portrayed in the VAT Act (89/1991) and those of the Melbourne Agreement differ, the tax managers at three major South African telecommunication service providers were interviewed to determine which principles they apply in practice. From the interviews conducted, it was clear that South African telecommunication service providers apply the principles of the Melbourne Agreement and levy VAT at 14% on international telecommunications services provided to its customers and VAT at 0% to foreign network operators for services rendered to non-residents while in South Africa. This is, however, contrary to the normal VAT principles that a service is zero-rated when a service is exported and consumed outside of South Africa and VAT levied at 14% when the service is provided to a non-resident present in South Africa at the time the service is rendered.