Tax filing season has officially opened and with it comes the responsibilities of compliance for the South African taxpayers. Nobody is exempt from tax unless the person is earning below the threshold and there is no free pass if a practitioner is not filing their forms correctly, so now is the time to ensure compliance, get tax right and avoid fines and unnecessary penalties.
“It is vital that taxpayers ensure they are compliant – that their returns are honest, all information is accurate and that their returns reflect a true picture of what happened over the past year,” says Sibusiso Thungo, Tax Specialist, South African Institute of Professional Accountants. “There are few things as stressful, both financially and emotionally, as discovering that your accounts are not compliant and you have huge penalties to pay to SARS.”
SAIPA recommends that every taxpayer familiarise themselves with the correct filing dates, information, paperwork and legalities to avoid unnecessary risk or stress. The cost of non-compliance is far higher than the cost of time invested into ensuring that you understand how to file your taxes correctly.
Knowledge not excuses
“If you are unsure of how to file your tax return or the paperwork required, then it’s advisable to go to your local SARS branch where the consultants can assist you free of charge or better still, approach a tax practitioner in your area,” says Thungo. “If you are using, or plan to use, a tax practitioner, ensure that they are registered with a recognised controlling body. Ask them for their PR number and contact the relevant authority to ensure it is valid and up-to-date.”
The next step is to gather all the supporting documents required by SARS. To know what document is needed, any amount that you are claiming/declaring that does not appear on the IRP 5 pre-loaded on your Income Tax Return (ITR12) supporting documents should be available should SARS call for them. Create a comprehensive checklist that covers every item required by SARS.
“Ensure the documentation is legible and accessible, SARS will reject forms and supporting documentation that cannot be read by their systems,” says Thungo. “Also, some of the tax regulations have changed as of 2017, so taxpayers need to spend some time getting to know the new rules.”
Some highlights on the IT 12 tax return amendments; Medical aid has become more detailed and transparent and the tax payer has to differentiate between what has or has not been paid by the scheme throughout the year. People with more than one retirement annuity need to report each one separately, and travel allowance reporting has also changed in terms of how it is claimed, and what can be claimed.
“There are warning signs to look out for when using a tax practitioner to complete your returns,” says Thungo. “If they promise to get you a refund, that’s always a warning. If they don’t ask you for proof or certificates, that’s also a concern. Just be aware of the requirements so you can be aware of the risks.”
To assist taxpayers in preparing for the tax season, in 2016 Tax year SAIPA partnered with SARS to bring the mobile units into their office block (Waterfall Office Park), providing tax advice to all those working in the area. The consultants provided in excess of a hundred taxpayers with free insight into their returns and requirements.
“This year, SAIPA will be extending this offering to nearby office complexes to bring SARS support deeper into the community,” concludes Thungo.