Millions of taxpayers yet to file their tax returns

People queue to submit their income tax returns to SARS in Polokwane before deadline. Late returns attract penalties. / Elijar Mushiana
People queue to submit their income tax returns to SARS in Polokwane before deadline. Late returns attract penalties. / Elijar Mushiana

An estimated two million taxpayers still needed to file their tax returns at the beginning of November. There is now just over a week before the deadline and if you are one of those who have left it to the last minute, it is time to focus on getting it in on time.

If you are a taxpayer, but not a provisional taxpayer, you need to submit a return on e-filing by November 24.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not to file - penalties for not submitting a return are now between R250 and R16000 for each month your return is outstanding, depending on your income.

The SA Revenue Service reported at the beginning of this month that some 4.5million taxpayers have filed returns, but last year some 6.6million taxpayers submitted returns, which means that there will be yet another last-minute rush to file returns.

Thomas Radzilani, the executive for tax operational centre of excellence at SARS, said in the last-minute rush to file, some 24000 returns are filed each day at SARS branches, while as many as 25000 returns are filed on e-filing.

Radzilani said if everyone tries to e-file at the last minute, the site will be overloaded and you could experience delays. Also, filing at the last minute is a bad idea because if you run into problems you may need to contact SARS, locate missing information or even request documents.

Another common error taxpayers make is entering the wrong number of medical scheme dependants, especially if the number of dependants changed during the year.

In a recent edition of TaxTalk published by the SA Institute of Tax Practitioners, tax consultant Nyasha Musviba said another mistake taxpayers make is claiming expenses as deductions when you do not have supporting documents.

He also warned against using the services of people who guarantee a refund from SARS. Understating income or overstating deductions in pursuit of a refund is a criminal offence.

If you are claiming work-related travel expenses against a travel allowance, you must have the right supporting documents or log book.

If you are claiming a tax deduction for contributions to a retirement annuity, (RA) you will be asked to name your RA provider and provide your policy number - don't just think that because the figure appears on your IRP5 that you don't need to have a certificate from the provider.

If you go to a SARS branch to file your return, they will ask to see it and if SARS decides to audit you, you will have to submit the document.

 Don't be scared of e-filing

If you haven't yet used e-filing, don't be scared to give it a try as it is quick and easy and gives you access to SARS's tax calculator to work out how much tax you owe or the refund you are owed, tax consultant Nyasha Musviba said.

Using e-filing makes it easier to respond to a SARS audit or a request to verify a deduction, gives you a full history of all the returns you have submitted, payments you have made and electronic correspondence.

Best of all, it avoids long queues at SARS offices.

If you get stuck while e-Filing, you can use SARS's Helpuefile service - a SARS consultant can shadow you and guide you on what to do without seeing sensitive info.

Do you need to submit?

You may be wondering if you need to submit a tax return. TaxTim, the online tax practitioner, said on its website that there are two situations where according to SARS, you, as a taxpayer, don't need to submit a tax return:

1) If you earn a gross salary of less than R350000 a year and you:

TaxTim says what this means is that you only have an IRP5 with a source code 3601 and nothing else.

2) If your total earnings fall below the annual tax threshold, then you'll also not be required to submit a tax return.

The tax threshold is R75000 a year for the tax year ending February 28 2017 and R75750 a year for current tax year that ends on February 28 next year.

However, TaxTim strongly recommends you always file your tax return whether it's required or not. The reasons for this include that you may be due for a refund and you may need a tax clearance certificate to borrow money or access your retirement savings.

Final deadlines

All taxpayers' returns: November 24. If you are a provisional taxpayer and e-file or file electronically at a SARS branch you have until January 31 next year to file.

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