The deadline for 2019’s tax season is 4 December, just less than a month away, so it’s time to seriously focus on your tax returns, warns Marc Sevitz, tax expert and co-founder of TaxTim.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni confirmed during his medium-term budget announcement that South Africa is facing yet another large tax revenue shortfall. Projected tax revenues grew by only 3.7% this year but Treasury was budgeting on growth of 10.4% to meet its budget commitments.
“South Africa is facing a dire tax collection crisis with implications for every South African if this does not improve. Since April 2014, SARS hasn’t met National Treasury’s tax collection target,” Sevitz said.
“Experts forecast that at the end of March 2020, SARS will miss a tax collection of up to R60 billion, the largest collection shortfall to date. This would take the total tax collection missed over the past six years to a whopping R215 billion.
“SARS needs to ensure that the budget deficit is reasonable and for the country to function optimally, SARS needs to ensure that enough revenue is generated through tax collection.”
At the end of August 2019, figures from SARS showed that the agency has only managed to collect 39% of the target and for the 2019/2020 tax year, the agency has only managed to collect 37%. Even though the South African government had opted for a VAT increase of 1%, the forecast larger budget deficit is more likely to result in a credit rating downgrade.
What does it mean for me if SARS doesn’t meet the tax collection target?
Increased taxes for everyone
If SARS doesn’t collect the money that the country needs, you may be asked to pay more tax because the government has to plug the deficit, Sevitz said. “Personal income tax and VAT increases are ways for the government to recuperate the money that has not been collected by SARS. Instead of only impacting those who default on paying their taxes, everyone is affected.”
An increased budget deficit and weakened economy will result in a weaker Rand which means food will become more expensive along with fuel and consumer goods. Other products that are dependent on imports and global pricing, will become more expensive too, Sevitz said.
For instance, South Africa relies heavily on the importing of wheat, which means that products like bread, pasta, cereal and processed meat and others, will most likely increase in cost too.
Electricity price hikes
As Eskom relies on diesel to keep the lights on during dreaded load shedding, this becomes more expensive every time the rand takes a dip.
For Eskom to keep up with the cost of diesel, the most effective way to recover the loss is to increase the cost of electricity. In the event of a ratings downgrade, this could result in larger interest payments on the large Eskom debt.
This could mean larger electricity price increases or even the need for government to provide another bailout to Eskom. This could also lead to tax increases to pay for this, Sevitz said.
SARS clamp down
SARS is clamping down on non-compliance this year, Sevitz warned. “If you fail to submit a tax return, SARS can charge an administrative penalty which can range from R250 to R16,000 per month or R3,000 to R192,000 per year.
“Besides the penalty, you can also expect SARS to add interest to outstanding tax debt. This means that instead of paying the amount due to SARS, you’ll be spending more just because you haven’t paid. SARS is also able to legally deduct money due directly from your bank account.
“So instead of waking up one day to a mysterious deduction that you need to dispute or enquire about, simply pay your taxes, on time,” he said.