What can I do if SARS ghosts/blue-tick me?

What can I do if SARS ghosts/blue-tick me?

KEY TAKEAWAY POINTS:

  • SARS has 21 business days to complete a verification
  • They may finalise it with or without changes
  • If they take more than 21 business days, you have a right to lodge a complaint
  • If nothing happens, you may take the matter up with the office of the tax ombud
  • Remember to keep a proper track record of the matter and/or any follow-ups you make on the matter
  • In this article, we discuss what verification is, what to do when you are selected for verification and if SARS does not bother to get back to you on time.

INTRODUCTION:

SARS has capacity issues that they are working hard to resolve, But, it seems this 2021 tax season they took more than what they can handle.


We have observed many taxpayers who have been selected for verification but who have not heard back from SARS many days after the verification was initiated. Under normal circumstances, SARS has up to 21 working days to finalise a verification and issue a finalisation letter and/or final or adjusted assessment.


In one case we have looked at, for example, the taxpayer who was selected for verification on 29 July 2021 has not heard back from SARS even at the time of writing this article. We are certain, she is not alone in this.


Let’s look at some important definitions before we can consider what one must do if SARS takes their time on the verifications.


What is verification?


Being selected for an audit and verification are two different processes. With a verification, SARS is doing a face value verification of the information declared by the taxpayer on the declaration or in a return. This involves the comparison of the information on the return against the financial and accounting records and/or other supporting documents. All this is to ensure that the declaration/return is a fair and accurate representation of the taxpayer’s tax position. (Remember, in terms of the Tax Administration Act, the onus is on the taxpayer to provide supporting documentation to prove that the deductions and information on their declaration are reasonable, fair and accurate.)


Who can be selected for verification?


Any taxpayers can be selected for a verification process for the proper administration of tax. The selection can also be done on a risk basis. What should you do if you are selected for verification?


What should you do if I am selected for verification?


SARS will notify the taxpayer if they have selected them for verification. The letter issued will state what the taxpayer must do or provide to SARS. The letter will also notify the taxpayer to check their tax return and to make any corrections if there are any discrepancies on their tax return. The taxpayer will be given 21 business days from the date of the letter in which to provide the supporting documents and schedules. These documents and schedules can be submitted via eFiling or SARS support documents portals.


During the verification, you can expect to get another letter requesting additional information if the relevant material initially supplied was not sufficient to finalize the verification. If you are due for a refund, you may not get this until the verification process is finalised.


What happens if you do not respond to the verification?


It is always important to keep an eye out for SARS correspondences on your email or eFiling. Normally SARS sends you a message and email when they have issued important notices.


If you choose not to respond SARS may:

  • Issue a second letter reminding you to submit relevant information
  • Issue a final request for relevant information
  • If you still do not respond, a SARS official will contact you telephonically and request that you submit the necessary relevant material within 5 business days.
  • Should you still not respond, SARS may raise an assessment based on information readily available or obtain from a third party.

Now let’s consider what your options are if SARS ghosts you.


What if you have complied/responded but SARS takes all the time in the world on the verification?


There is the office of the tax ombud that can help with operational issues. But, it does not get involved before you have exhausted all internal SARS complaints mechanisms. You can only go directly to the office of the tax ombud only if there are compelling reasons to do so.


So, the first step to take is to complain to the SARS complaints office. To do so, you must be sure that the matter is now outside the normal service period, as in the example we have earlier about the taxpayer who was selected for verification on 20 July and has not yet back from SARS ever since.


There are three ways through which one can complain with SARS:

  • Via eFiling. See the step-by-step guide on how to complain eFiling. Please note that you have to be registered on eFiling to be able to do this. You may not download or print the form to send it by any other means. You must also have a valid case number to which your complaint relates.
  • By visiting the branch. If you do, you may need to ensure that you have spoken to all relevant higher people before you leave the branch. Due to covid, you may need to make an online appointment.
  • By calling the SARS Complaints Management office (CMO) on 0860 12 12 16.

Do not call the call normal call centre and say you are following up on an unresolved matter, the call centre agents may just “escalate” your case and normally that achieves very little. If your complaint is not resolved after 21 working days, you may take the matter to the office of the tax ombud.


Here are a few tips on winning the battle against SARS poor service/administrative issues and making sure you have a winnable case when you approach them or the Tax Ombud:


Be specific: 


If you have a complaint, it is better to call the Complaints Management Office (CMO.) If you call the SARS contact centre to get a reference number, specify that it is a complaint with a complaint, specify that it is a complaint and not a follow-up. If you keep calling the call centre and saying you are following up, it may remain just that, a follow-up. You need to specify that you have a complaint so that it is treated as one. Some complaints will need case numbers, make sure you call the contact centre to get one.


Build a compelling case:


The most important thing to do when dealing with SARS is to build a good case, this is whether you are raising a complaint, an appeal or an objection. You will need a system to record your interactions with SARS (at each touchpoint with them). You also need to store documents and supporting documents relevant to the taxpayer’s case. The system of recording your interactions with SARS should allow you to build a timeline of how the case is developed and to ensure that you have all the documents you need for this case.


One such system is to make sure each client file/folder contains relevant subfolders that will help you gather the important and necessary information. The other is to build a dashboard that records the timeline and communications with SARS. This can take any form, for example, Word or Google docs, a task management tool like Asana, Trello or Monday.com.


NB: You do not do this because something has gone wrong, but because things may go wrong and often they do go wrong, but because things may go wrong.


The advantage of doing things this way is that you will save yourself a lot of time when doing the actual complaint, even an appeal or objection. The Tax Ombud form will ask you to summary your case in chronological order. So, if you had been building a case over time, this process will be a breeze. You have all the facts and timeline at your fingertips.


Do you need help with your SARS matters? Contact us here

How to close a business in South Africa

How to close a business in South Africa

Who should be reading this article? 

  • Anyone whose business is no longer trading and wishes to wind it down
  • Anyone who wants to liquidate their business
  • Anyone who has lost interest in their registered business and now wishes to discontinue it

KEY TAKE AWAY POINTS:

  1. Pay all outstanding creditors
  2. Collect from all debtors if any
  3. Cancel all contracts (ensuring that all the conditions and terms of doing so are understood and taken care off)
  4. Inform all employees and customers of the intention to close down the business
  5. Sell your business assets (including the cars) and stock (if any) or write off any assets or inventory no longer – S basically liquidate the business
  6. The last step would be to distribute any cash or assets that remain in the business
  7. Deregistering at the CIPC
  8. Deregistering with SARS (all tax numbers)

Why may you consider closing a business off?

There are many reasons for this. But, you may consider closing off your business because of any of the following reasons (not limited to this list:)

  • The business was negatively affected by COVID and there is no possibility of the business doing well again in the future
  • The business has become unprofitable and it no longer makes sense to continue operating
  • Your focus or passion has changed and you would like to focus on something else
  • The project for which the business was designed has ended and will not be resuming again in the future
  • The most profitable clients of the business have left and you do not see the business attracting any new clients
  • Changes in technology that drive your product or business out of the market
  • You no longer have the cash flow or working capital to keep the business going

If you are considering closing down your business, the following steps and considerations are important:

1. Have an exit strategy:

Truly speaking, this should happen before there is a need to close down a business. This is because we will all exit from our business one way or the other. Some of the exit reasons are what we have already highlighted above. But, it could also be due to health reasons, death, new investors, a merger or sale of the business or part of the business. Whatever the reason, every business should have an exit and succession plan in place.


Your goal here is to formulate a plan of how you will close down the business or exit from the business. Without a plan, things usually go wrong and you may be caught unaware along the way.


2. Notify your employees:

After your customers, your employees are an important asset to the business. Besides, they have families to feed and lives to live. Leaving it until late may place an unnecessary mental burden on them and leave them with little time to look for alternative employment. As an alternative, use your relationships to find then alternative employment.


But, the important point here is to keep the employees in the loop, not in the dark, about what is going on. Also, decide on who will handle the communications with the employees. It is also important to decide and communicate their terminal benefits and how these will be paid.


3. Notify your clients

It is important to notify your clients in time so that they have time to look for alternative suppliers. Also, you may need to collect anything that they still owe you. It is important that you decide how you will collect and how they will be notified.


4. Collect your outstanding debts

Plan your business closure around your existing collection policies and avoid giving new credit lines to existing or new clients.


You also want to collect any outstanding debts before you close the business because it may become difficult to get payments once you have already closed off the business. Some businesses’ financial policies do not allow payments to individuals.


Avoid announcing that you want to close off your business before you collect outstanding debts because some clients may just stall on payments hoping it will all go away.


You can offer settlement discounts to encourage customers to settle their accounts. An alternative is selling these accounts to a collecting agency.


5. Notify your creditors and pay outstanding debts

Inform your creditors of your decision to close and ensure you have a plan to handle the outstanding debts.

SARS may be one of those creditors. Ensure that you have filed all your returns and that every return is paid for. If you are unable to pay them, there are processes you can follow to ask for a compromise or a repayment plan (Click here to read more about compromises and repayment plans here.)

There may be specific laws on how you may pay your creditors. Ensure you are familiar with these and follow them in settling your creditors. If you are not sure, enlist the services of a lawyer.


6. Sell your business and operating assets 

If you can, package some of the cash-generating units that are still functional and profitable and sell these to interested parties. If this is not possible, you may want to sell the assets in the business including all the inventory, vehicles and other operating assets you may still have if there is a market available for them.


7. Deregister the business

Once you are satisfied that all processes are complete, it is now time to deregister your business with the CIPC. This is to inform the CIPC that your business is no longer in existence.


After this is done, inform SARS that you have deregistered the business. Also, apply to have all tax types (numbers) deregistered. This is to clear you of future tax compliance burden since your business is no longer in existence.


You may contact us if you need help with:

  • Company registrations
  • Tax and VAT registrations
  • Closing off your business
  • Accounting and Tax
  • Business mentorship and advisory

Can I deduct home office expenses?

Can I deduct home office expenses?

These days the work culture has changed. Since lockdown was introduced. Some companies had to close shop and some employees were required to work from home. Also and in general, the world is changing and so is the way people work and interact. Many people, like myself, prefer working from home. Working from home has become a normal thing. The GIG economy will also make working from home just another normal thing.


Luckily, SARS allows home office deductions if certain conditions are met. However, it is important to note that SARS often than not flag returns with home office expenses for audit. So it is important that one correctly and accurately claims these deductions.


It is worth understanding the rules around home office expenses as they are allowed under certain circumstances. Not everyone may end up deducting home office expenses.


Having said this, it is important to point out that the situation is different for self-employed people or what we would term sole proprietors or freelancers who work from home. These taxpayers can automatically deduct their home office expenses. These taxpayers (self-employed, sole proprietors, freelancers) do not need to work through the tight conditions required for one to be able to deduct home office expenses. They simply have to include their home office expenses with the local business, trade and professional income on their tax return.


What is required to be able to deduct home office expenses? 

  • The employer must allow the taxpayer to work from home. So, you can’t just work from home because you want to. Your employer must give you express permission to work from home.
  • The taxpayer must spend more than half of their total working hours working from their home office.
  • The part of the home in respect of which a claim is submitted must be occupied for purposes of a “trade”, as defined in section 1. So, in essence, there should be a specific part of the home that is used exclusively for this purpose. As an example, a specific set aside office must be kept aside for the trade. A taxpayer meeting with a client in the bar area of their home may not qualify for these deductions.
  • Building from the point above, the part that is so occupied must be specifically equipped for purposes of the trade. So, it is important that space/office must be specially fitted with the relevant instruments, tools and equipment required for the taxpayer to perform their work.
  • The part must be regularly and exclusively used for purposes of the trade. As an example, taxpayers who earn a commission but who spend the majority of their time on the road visiting clients and performing their work at the client’s premises do not qualify for home office expense deduction.

What expenses can be deducted? 

First, one needs to check the taxpayers’ remuneration structure to see if they are:

  1. A commission earner, that is, takes more than 50% of their total remuneration from the commission or some other variable form which is based on their performance.
  2.  A normal salaried employee with variable payments/commission making up less than 50% of their total remuneration.

The commission earners can deduct the following:

  • Rent
  • Interest on bond
  • Repairs to premises
  • Rates and taxes
  • Cleaning
  • Internet
  • Wear and tear and
  • All other expenses relating to their house as well as other commission related business expenses (such as telephone, stationery, repairs to printers, maid answering phone in your absence etc)

The salaries employee with variable payments/commission making up less than 50% of their total remuneration can deduct:

  • Rent of the premises
  • Interest on the bond
  • Cost of repairs to the premises and other expenses in connection with the premises
  • Rates and taxes
  • Cleaning
  • Internet,
  • Wear and tear and all other expenses relating to their house only.

How to calculate the home office deduction: 

One would need to work out/measure the total square meterage of the office in relation to the total square meterage of the house. This is then converted into a percentage. The percentage is then used to apportion the expenses that can be used for home office deductions.


Example:

Mrs taxpayer is a software engineer who works for Corona Company Pty Ltd. Her remuneration consists of a salary only (no commission.) Her Company allows her to work from home three days per week. Mrs taxpayer has a separate office at home, fitted out with a computer and printer, which she uses exclusively for her software engineering job. Her office is 30 square meters, and the floor space of her entire home (including the office) is 300 square meters.


During the tax year, she incurs the following expenses:

– R120, 000 interest on a bond

– R36, 000 rates and electricity

– R36, 000 paid to the cleaner

– R5, 000 roof repairs

– R12, 000 cell phone expenses


Based on the above information, Mrs taxpayer qualifies for home office deduction. Based on the space occupied by her home in relation to the entire house, the apportionment ratio is 10% (30/300).


Therefore her home office deduction is 10% x (120 000 + 36 000 + 36 000 +5 000) = R19 700.

Her cell phone costs will not be deductible since she is not a commission earner.


Will I qualify for a home office deduction for the 2021 tax season? 


The 2021 tax season started 1 March 2020 and ends 28 Feb 2021. To be able to claim home office expenses you would need to have met the conditions specified earlier. You will also need to have ended up working from home for more than six months of the tax year. That is, you would have worked from home until at least the end of September 2020.


Need help claiming your home office expenses or finding someone who can deal with SARS on your behalf? Click here to contact us.

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