How to guard yourself against being sued by SARS

Since April 2018, SARS has been cracking down on non-complying taxpayers in filing their tax return. Since April, SARS has successfully prosecuted and convicted 10 taxpayers for failing to submit their outstanding tax return. Among these people is prominent soccer player, Teko Modise. Most of you would have also read about the socialite Bonang being dragged to court by SARS over non-compliance.

In terms of the Tax Administration Act, the following are viewed as criminal offences:

  • Avoiding to pay taxes
  • Not submitting tax returns
  • Failure to submit information to SARS
  • Submitting false information to SARS
  • Giving an incorrect answer to SARS, whether in writing or orally
  • Failing or neglecting to register or failure to notify SARS of changes in registered particulars
  • Issuing an erroneous, incomplete or false document required under a tax Act

Here are a few tips to guard against being sued by SARS:

Appoint a tax practitioner:

Tax laws and requirements are constantly changing. Each year new laws are introduced. It is hard to keep up to date with these changes if you are non-tax experts. It is advisable to appoint tax practitioners to always advise you on tax related matters and to submit the tax return for you in terms of the relevant laws. This will save you the costs of objections and “fighting” with SARS.

Always check your tax compliance status and inbox: 

One should regularly check their tax compliance status, which is a platform that gives an indication of whether one’s tax affairs are in order.

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Your tax compliance profile should be green in all aspects as per above image. The minute any of those tabs turn red, something has gone wrong with your tax affairs. You should immediately investigate and address these issues. SARS will also often send you a notification when your tax compliance status changes. When you receive this, immediately investigate and resolve. If you hired a tax practitioner, you must also immediately notify them so that they can investigate and help you to resolve these identified issues.

Do not miss a return submission: 

You must always submit all your tax return where you are required to do so. Missing a tax return is a criminal offence and may land you in trouble. There are few instances where one may not be required to submit a tax return. If in doubt about whether or not you need to submit one, consult with your tax practitioner/profession. Generally, only people who meet the four below criteria do not have to submit an income tax:

– Your total employment income / salary for the year is not more than R350 000
– You only received employment income / salary for the full year of assessment from one employer.
– You have no car allowance/company car/ travel allowance or other income (e.g. interest or rental income).
– You are not claiming tax related deductions/rebates (e.g. medical expenses, retirement annuity contributions other than pension contributions made by your employer, travel).

Keep and submit supporting documents: 

One must always ensure that for everything on their tax return, there is a valid supporting document. Constantly check your inbox to ensure that you respond to request for supporting documents by SARS. SARS is becoming quite strict with these. So, ensure that you have proper and valid supporting documents for your tax return.

Be truthful and honest: 

Remember, there is a difference between tax avoidance and tax optimisation. Tax avoidance is a criminal offence in terms of the Tax Administration Act and can land you in big trouble. When submitting your tax return, ensure that you have honestly done so. Declare all income that accrued to you in that tax year (salaries, rental income, commission and other incomes). In terms of expenses, you must take care not to include personal or expenses of a capital nature. As an example, personal groceries or drawings will not be allowed as deductions and should not form part of your deductions. Similarly, if you are in the business or renting cars or accommodation, the capital repayments on the car or property cannot be deducted as business expenses. If you have a home office, you may not claim your entire house’s rental expense.

For home office expenses, one would need to work out the total square meterage of the home office in relation to the total square meterage of the house, and then convert this to a percentage. One then applies this percentage to the home office expenditure in order to calculate the portion, which is deductible.

Conclusion: 

It is a criminal offence not to submit a tax return. Late submission of a tax return also has huge consequences. Submitting late can attract penalties, interests and administrative penalties, which can range from R250 to R16 000 per month. If you have a couple of outstanding returns, this is when SARS can get the NPA involved leading to an individual’s case being heard before court.

 

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