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I am packing a motherboard, graphics card, RAM, power supply, chip, fans, SSD, and external hard drive which are ALL brand new still in their respective packages - packing them all inside my checked-in luggage. (Also a brand new PC case - which will be obviously still in its box!)

My biggest question is if I am even allowed to do this? I have bought all these as surprise gift for my husband who lives internationally.

I am coming from the UK and flying to South Africa. Do I need to declare all these items?

Will it be easier to just unpack them and wrap individually to make it seem I've used them already? Do I need to explain my new goods to security here in the UK? Is it easier to just leave them in their original packaging?

My biggest fear is that security won't be happy with something and confiscates my components that cost almost £2000 in total.

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I would not anticipate any problems with security upon departing the UK. People travel with those sorts of items all the time, and none of them are listed as prohibited by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, as far as I can tell

When you arrive in South Africa, you will need to declare these goods by going through the red channel, as their value exceeds ZAR 5000 (about £270). See https://www.sars.gov.za/ClientSegments/Customs-Excise/Travellers/Pages/Arrival-in-SA.aspx. At the very least, it seems you will have to pay VAT of 15%, and possibly additional duties besides. There is an option to pay a flat rate of 20% on goods valued up to ZAR 20000, but it seems you are over that as well. So you should budget several hundred pounds for this. Having the receipts may help prove the value of the items in case customs thinks they are worth more.

  • So will the charges be 20% of the total amount of how much the imported items costed all together? or will it be 15%? or 35%? – Bea Sep 20 at 16:24
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    @Bea: It's complicated. Nations set different tariff rates on different classes of goods. It could be 15% of the value of the case and 30% of the value of the graphics card or any other permutation. I just don't know. The complete rules are here but I think what most people do is just to declare all the goods, let the customs agent determine what you owe, and pay it. – Nate Eldredge Sep 20 at 17:53
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    If you want to, you can educate yourself on the law @Bea, and then have a bit of a lawyerly arguing session with each item, going "no, this belongs in this category here at 15%" etc. – Harper Sep 20 at 19:32
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In the UK security knows what computer parts are and how they look on the screens. If in doubt they might ask you to unpack an item so they can actually see it.

You should bring these items in your hand luggage, as valuables and breakables should not be packed in your hold luggage. But you seem to have too much for your hand luggage. In that case you will have to pack some in your hold luggage and take the risk it goes missing or gets broken.

The UK side will only check whether you can do damage to the plane and the people in it and most computer parts are not known to be dangerous. Batteries should not go into hold luggage.

When you arrive at the other end you will have to declare, the customs in South Africa will value and charge you to what they think it is worth. It does not matter whether you still have the parts in boxes or home wrapped as they will judge by eye whether they are new or almost new and charge accordingly.

Never lie to immigration and customs officers, as they can make your life hard if you do, and trying to hide the fact that they are new is a kind of lying. Some people will be able to pull it off, the rest will be charged for new parts with possibly an extra charge for trying to deceive.
As you will get your hold luggage before you go through customs, it does not matter in which part of your luggage you have your computer parts.

With a value of 2000 pound, I am pretty sure customs in South Africa will want to charge you.
Only if you or your husband will bring them out soon, you might get away with a 'temporary import' although I am not sure how they handle that in South Africa.

  • Thank you for the responses. In the case of I assemble the PC components together, and use it, will I still be charged? I will technically be just be bringing a working pc to South Africa. and what do you mean 'Only if you or your husband will bring them out soon' ? Is there a chance they will confiscate it if I fail to pay charges? – Bea Sep 20 at 15:13
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    If you transport a computer to a foreign country to leave there, you import it and you pay import duty. If you bring a computer with you on a holiday, you may convince the customs officers that you will bring it out of the country again and they may see it as an alternative for a laptop you take on your travels. But if your husband lives there, it is very unlikely they believe you. – Willeke Sep 20 at 15:26
  • Yes, your computer can have to stay with the customs officers till you have paid the charges, or you may be offered the option to leave it with them till you return home. If you had not yet bought it I would have advised you to buy the computer where your husband lives, not where you live. – Willeke Sep 20 at 15:27
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    Red channel. Do not try to dodge this. – chx Sep 20 at 16:11
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    Usually some fraction of people going through the Green Channel will be randomly pulled aside and their luggage searched. They might also have X-ray or other means of detecting items, but they would probably not announce this publicly, so we wouldn't know. If you go through the Green Channel and are caught with the goods, I believe you can be fined three times the value of the goods, or imprisoned for up to two years. – Nate Eldredge Sep 20 at 18:08
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Check if you fulfill the conditions stated here:

Tax on shopping and services

Tax-free shopping
You can sometimes get VAT refunds on goods bought in the UK if you:

  • visit the UK but live outside the EU and are going back home
  • are an EU resident leaving the EU for 12 months or more
  • are a non-EU resident but work or study in the UK and are leaving the EU for 12 months or more

Not all retailers offer tax-free shopping and you can only get VAT refunds for goods bought within the last 3 months.

Then at least tax would only have to be paid once.
If you do fullfil the conditions, the site contains information on how this is to be done.


These general rules apply for all Non-EU residents in the EU

  • when exporting goods bought in the EU

After Brexit, these will probably still apply

  • Products bought in UK by Non-British residents
  • Products bought in EU by Non-EU residents
    • VAT would have to be refunded inside the Market it was bought in
    • VAT would have to be paid to the Market being imported to

Market = Customs Area

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