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South Africa’s tax season is now open – what you should know about lockdown and filing

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has announced the opening of the filing season for individual taxpayers.

The revenue collector said that the filing season will run from 1 July – 23 November, with taxpayers encouraged to file online.

SARS said that taxpayers who cannot file online can do so physically at a SARS branch by appointment only, as it has temporarily closed its physical branches due to concerns around the third wave of Covid-19 infections currently impacting the country.

It said that the temporary closure of the tax branches will not affect the start of the filing season for individuals who traditionally file via eFiling or the SARS MobiApp.

These taxpayers are encouraged to continue doing so digitally, starting from 1 July 2021, it said. However, branch filing will not commence on this date.

“At this stage, we plan to commence physical branch visits on 16 August 2021 but will review this continuously. Taxpayers are advised not to come to a SARS branch. The branches will be closed until an announcement is made confirming the reopening date.”

During the branch closures, taxpayers who require assistance to file online will be assisted telephonically with the support of dedicated SARS staff, it said.

Auto-assessments and refunds 

While SARS has assured that the filing season will not be impacted by the lockdown, there are still some important considerations, says specialised tax consultancy Tax Consulting SA.

Chief amongst these is the issue of auto-assessments and refunds.

SARS can speed along the tax filing process by actioning an auto assessment, sometimes without informing you, Tax Consulting SA said.

“This means that SARS will automatically complete an assessment based on data received from employers, medical schemes, retirement annuities and other third-party data providers.

“Do not be surprised when you find an auto-assessment pre-loaded on your profile, ready for you to accept.”

While auto-assessments are intended to curb non-compliance, the consequences of it could include forfeiting refunds or other forms of tax relief due to you, said Tax Consulting SA.

“It’s important to make sure that all information did pull through on the assessment and was recorded correctly. Travel allowances and rental incomes are examples of income that might not have been automatically included.

“If an auto-assessment has been completed and loaded onto your profile, it is a good idea to seek professional advice before accepting it or editing any information on the return yourself.”

Offshore investments

Following from the auto-assessments, expats often avoid full disclosure when submitting their returns, said Tax Consulting SA.

“The view that SARS can’t tax what it can’t see, can be a dangerous view to hold on to.

“Even if you are working in another country, the Common Reporting Standards (CRS) agreement is there to facilitate the exchange of information between countries, particularly that of earnings and investments while abroad.

“SARS can readily gain access to this information and hypothesize your tax returns in an auto-assessment based on the CRS reporting. If you have any offshore investments, remember to declare them in your tax returns to avoid any legal consequence.”

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