ZATCA publishes controls governing customs procedures guide


On 6 December 2023, the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority (ZATCA) ratified a new set of guidelines known as The Rules of Customs Procedures Guide, under Resolution 28624. These rules, initially open for public consultation, have now been officially published in the Saudi Official Gazette Umm Al-Qura (in Arabic).


The effective date is officially 29 December 2023, and the essence of these rules is to bring clarity and efficiency to the customs processes associated with the import and export of goods in KSA. The rules are aimed at aligning with the Common Customs Law of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States and its Implementing Regulations.

The key objectives of these new rules include:
  • Streamlining the documentation process required for importing goods, along with simplifying the submission methods.
  • Providing clear guidelines for the transportation of goods within KSA’s customs offices, including the criteria for dividing shipments and the procedures for pre-clearing goods.
  • Establishing inspection protocols.
  • Setting the conditions for obtaining exemptions from customs duties.
  • Obtaining and refunding bank guarantees.
  • Outlining specific conditions for the suspension of customs duties, particularly in scenarios involving movements of goods in and out of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), during transit, under temporary admission, and in the context of re-exporting goods.

The overarching aim of the Rules is to align these procedures with ZATCA’s objectives for efficient customs management. Further aspects of the rules are discussed briefly below.

Documentation requirements
  • The rules list essential documents for importing goods, which includes invoices, bills of lading, certificates of origin, and specific certificates/documents based on the nature of the imported goods.
  • Electronic archiving of documents is mandatory, with originals being retained for five years. This is to ensure traceability and verification of customs declarations.
Clearance and transport of goods
  • The new rules also allow for pre-clearance of goods.
  • Also covers scenarios of split-consignments.
  • Containers are required to be be securely closed and only opened with permission from ZATCA.
  • Goods received through land customs ports can be redirected to other customs offices, particularly if they require inspection at another location.
  • Goods may be inspected by ZATCA based on risk standards.
  • Inspections can occur outside customs offices for special, perishable, or dangerous goods.
  • The owner of the goods will be responsible for transporting the goods to the inspection site and ensuring their safety.
Suspension of customs duties
  • Conditions are outlined for transporting goods into duty-free zones and the suspension of customs duties under various scenarios, including transit and temporary admission.
  • Guarantees for customs duties must be provided for temporary entry of goods, with specific procedures for ending the temporary admission status.
  • Where the goods enter SEZ from KSA, to apply for a refund of customs duties initially paid in KSA, the owner must file a re-export declaration connected to the initial import declaration when moving goods from KSA into an SEZ.
  • When transferring goods from an SEZ into KSA, an import declaration is required, and applicable customs duties must be paid.
  • Transferring goods from one SEZ to another requires prior approval from ZATCA. A detailed customs declaration for these goods must be submitted.
  • For re-exporting goods that were initially imported into KSA, linking the re-export declaration to the original import declaration is necessary to claim a refund on the respective customs duties.
Guarantees and refunds
  • The rules allow for entering and transporting goods within Saudi Arabia without immediate payment of customs duties, or postponement of payment of duties for a period of 30 days, subject to the provision of a bank or cash guarantee.
  • The rules also allow for a process for requesting refunds for customs duties paid on non-conforming goods after export of those goods.

Authored by: Zain Satardien

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Zain Satardien

Counsel, Head of Tax & International Trade
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