What Items Are Exempt from VAT in South Africa?

VAT is a consumption tax imposed on the supply of goods and services in South Africa. While most products and services are subject to VAT, there are specific exemptions in place. Understanding which items are exempt from VAT is crucial for individuals and businesses operating in South Africa.

Common items that are exempt from VAT

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concept of VAT exemptions and provide an extensive list of common items that are exempt from VAT in the country.

Basic Food Items

In South Africa, basic food items are exempt from VAT to ensure affordable access to essential sustenance. These items include fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, bread, milk, rice, maize meal, legumes, and other staple food products. [ Read More: Can You Claim VAT on Food for Staff ]

Agricultural Products

Certain agricultural products are also exempt from VAT. This category encompasses goods directly related to agricultural activities, such as live animals, seeds, plants, fertilizers, and various farming equipment and machinery.

Education and Medical Services

Education and medical services play a crucial role in society and are exempt from VAT. This exemption covers educational services provided by registered educational institutions, including tuition fees, and medical services provided by registered healthcare professionals and clinics. [ Read More: Can You Claim VAT on Staff Medical Expenses? ]

Financial Services

Financial services, including bank fees, insurance premiums, and interest on loans, are exempt from VAT. This exemption acknowledges the role of financial institutions in facilitating economic activities and avoids double taxation on financial transactions.

Read More: Is Fuel VAT Exempt or Zero Rated in South Africa

Residential Rental Accommodation

Residential rental accommodation is exempt from VAT in South Africa. This applies to the leasing or renting of residential properties for the purpose of providing shelter to individuals or families. However, commercial property rentals are subject to VAT.

Municipal Services

Services provided by municipalities, such as water and electricity supply, refuse removal, sewerage services, and public parks, are generally exempt from VAT. These essential services are exempted to ensure affordability and accessibility for communities.

Public Transportation

Public transportation services, including bus, train, and taxi fares, are exempt from VAT. This exemption promotes affordable and accessible transportation options for the general public, facilitating mobility and connectivity.

Financial Instruments and Certain Transactions

Certain financial instruments, such as shares, debentures, and bonds, are exempt from VAT. Additionally, specific transactions like the sale of a going concern or the transfer of a farm as a whole may also be exempt, subject to specific conditions.

Exported Goods and International Services

Goods and services that are exported from South Africa, as well as certain international services, are generally zero-rated for VAT purposes. This means that while VAT is technically charged, the rate is set at 0%, effectively resulting in no VAT payable.


Understanding the items exempt from VAT in South Africa is essential for individuals, businesses, and consumers. The exemptions aim to ensure affordability, promote key sectors such as agriculture and education, and facilitate the well-being of individuals and communities. It is important to note that VAT exemptions may be subject to conditions and limitations, so it is advisable to consult the South African Revenue Service (SARS) or a tax professional for precise and up-to-date information.

Stay informed about VAT regulations and exemptions, as they may be subject to changes and updates. By being aware of these exemptions, you can make informed decisions and navigate the South African tax landscape more effectively.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and should not be considered as legal or financial advice. It is recommended to consult with a qualified professional for personalized guidance regarding VAT and taxation matters.

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South African Revenue Service (SARS): https://www.sars.gov.za/

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