SARS 2024 tax filing season is here

 ·30 Jun 2024

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) announced 15 July 2024 as the start of the filing season for provisional and non-provisional taxpayers who must file a tax return.

Auto-assessments for an expanded pool of South African taxpayers will run from 1 July 2024 to 14 July 2024.

The revenue services urged taxpayers to ensure their contact details, including an email address, cell phone number, and banking details, are current.

Taxpayers can update these details through eFiling or the SARS MobiApp if they have changed.

“Updating this information goes a long way toward preventing fraud and identity theft,” SARS said.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said they remain committed to making filing season for standard taxpayers an invisible process.

Due to the use of big data, machine learning, and algorithms, little or no action would be required from South African taxpayers.

“The pool of taxpayers who will be auto-assessed will increase to about 4.8 million this year compared to about 3.8 million taxpayers last year,” SARS said.

Taxpayers who agree with the auto-assessment do not have to do anything. If a refund is due, it will be paid within 72 hours. If tax is due, the taxpayer must pay by the due date.

If taxpayers disagree with the auto-assessment, they should make changes and file their return via eFiling or the SARS MobiApp on or before 21 October 2024.

SARS provided details about the 2024 filing season dates.

  • Auto-assessment notices: 1 to14 July 2024
  • Individual taxpayers (non-provisional): 15 July 2024 to 21 October 2024
  • Provisional taxpayers: 15 July 2024 to 20 January 2025
  • Trusts: 16 September 2024 to 20 January 2025

“The large number of digital platforms reinforces the trend of a decreasing number of taxpayers needing to visit branches and wait in queues,” Kieswetter said.

Taxpayers who are auto-assessed but wish to claim the solar tax rebate must complete their tax return and file it normally.

They can also contact SARS through the SARS Online Query System. They can use this service without going into a SARS branch or calling SARS.

The service allows users to submit a payment allocation query, request a tax reference number, and submit supporting documents.

They can also report a new estate case, update the registered representative, request their tax compliance status, and verify their tax compliance status.

They can further check if they are due for an auto-assessment, which can only be done once the process starts on 1 July.

Kieswetter urged South African taxpayers to be transparent and accurate when filing their tax returns to enable a constructive relationship with SARS.

“The use of technology and data has enhanced SARS’ ability to detect instances of non-compliance,” he said.

“Taxpayers must not inflate their expenses and under-declare their income to obtain impermissible refunds.”

SARS auto-assessment tax warning

Latita Africa tax accounting specialist Kabelo Moutloatse warned that auto-assessments are not perfect and that people should not consider them the final step.

South Africans who have been auto-assessed by SARS must still perform their own assessment, as failure to do so could lead to additional taxes or even criminal charges.

Moutloatse said the auto-assessment process offers numerous benefits, but warned that it requires due diligence from selected taxpayers.

Latita Africa tax accounting specialist Kabelo Moutloatse

“The auto-assessment remains an estimated assessment. Taxpayers are advised to reconcile the assessment with their tax certificates, bank statements and salary slips,” he said.

Generally, individuals selected for auto-assessments include employees with a single income and simple financial affairs.

“Their tax disclosures have historically fit into tax certificates for medical aid and retirement fund contributions, employee tax certificates (IRP5s) or tax certificates from financial institutions if they received interest income,” Moutloatse explained.

“High-net-worth individuals or people with more sophisticated tax affairs, such as company directors and independent traders, are generally excluded from auto-assessments.”

Moutloatse outlined several things South Africans should know about SARS’ auto-assessments to avoid penalties.

Firstly, SARS will notify taxpayers via SMS or email that they have been selected for auto-assessment.

The notifications will be sent from 1 July to 14 July 2024. The deadline for auto-assessed taxpayers is 21 October 2024.

However, if a taxpayer’s contact details are not updated or if the notification is sent to an unattended inbox, taxpayers will not have the opportunity to be alerted.

Therefore, Moutloatse advised taxpayers to check their e-Filing profiles during the annual Filing Season.

Secondly, it is critical to remember that SARS will assess taxpayers based on the information available to the revenue service.

“Auto-assessments may not consider all potential deductions and credits available to the taxpayer,” he explained.

“There may also have been events during the tax year that were not captured correctly by the third-party data providers such as the employer, medical aid scheme or financial institution.”

For example, resident employees working outside South Africa are eligible for a R1.25 million exemption on their foreign income.

However, if this is not reflected on their employees’ tax certificates, SARS will tax them on their full income.

There can also be cases where other income, like rental income, is not considered in the auto-assessment.

If the taxpayer does not rectify it, the resulting tax shortfall may result in additional tax, penalties, and interest imposed.

If the tax shortfall is severe enough, there may be criminal implications for the taxpayer.

Lastly, if any taxpayer disagrees with SARS’ assessment, they must file a tax return correcting the auto-assessment on or before 21 October 2024.

According to SARS’ website, if an auto-assessment was issued after 21 October 2024, then taxpayers must file a correction within 40 business days after the notice of assessment.

If a correction is filed after that date, the taxpayer may end up paying penalties and interest.

Read: SARS auto-assessments for tax season 2024 – what you need to know

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