How to navigate your 2023 tax returns

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SARS has announced that the filing season will run from 7 July to 23 October 2023 for individual taxpayers, while provisional taxpayers (including trusts) will have until 24 January 2023 to file via eFiling or the MobiApp. While previously those who were not happy with their auto-assessments had just 40 working days in which to file their returns, this year auto-assessed taxpayers have until 23 October to file their returns which is a huge relief for many. In this article, we unpack these, and other, changes made to this year’s tax season and provide advice on how to navigate tax season efficiently.

Who needs to submit a tax return?

If you are a South African tax resident and have earned above the tax threshold, you will need to file a tax return if you have had more than one employer or income source during the tax year. For example, if you are formally employed and earn a rental income from an investment property, you will be required to file returns. Also, if you changed employers during the course of the tax year, this would qualify as two different income streams and you will be required to file a return.

In certain circumstances, you may be required to file a tax return regardless of whether your taxable income exceeded the tax threshold or not. For instance, if you carried on a business in or outside of South Africa, sold assets and the capital gain was more than R40 000 for the tax year, or where you owned foreign currency or assets exceeding R250 000 at any time during the tax year, you will be required to submit tax returns.

Do I need to declare foreign income earned?

Yes, taxpayers are required to declare their worldwide foreign income sourced from a foreign employer while working in South Africa and/or abroad, and, to facilitate this, SARS has included three new fields for foreign earners.

When don’t I need to submit a tax return?

Not everyone who has earned an income in the current tax year needs to file a tax return. This is because, as an individual, you are only liable to pay tax if your taxable income was more than the tax threshold which for the March 2022 to February 2023 period were as follows:

  • R91 250 if you are younger than 65 years.
  • If you are 65 years of age to below 75 years, the tax threshold (i.e. the amount above which income tax becomes payable) is R141 250.
  • For taxpayers aged 75 years and older, this threshold is R157 900.

Further, if all of the following criteria apply to you, you do not need to submit a tax return:

  • Your total pre-tax salary for the year was not more than R500 000 and employees’ tax has been deducted or withheld in terms of the deduction tables, and
  • You only received employment income for the full year of assessment from a single employer, and
  • You have no car allowance, company car, travel allowance, interest income, or rental income, and
  • You are not claiming tax-related deductions.

If you are unsure whether you need to submit an ITR12, it’s best to follow these guidelines issued by SARS, Do you need to submit a tax return?, which set out nine questions relating to your income during the year of assessment?

How do auto-assessments work?

Taxpayers who fall within the auto-assessment population will receive an SMS between 1 July and 7 July 2023 notifying them that they have been selected for auto-assessment. In order to perform the auto-assessment, SARS uses data received from employers, medical schemes, financial institutions, retirement annuity funds, and other third-party data providers. Upon the collection of data, SARS will complete an auto-assessment which will be pre-loaded against your profile. You can view your auto-assessment from 20h00 on 7 July 2023 on either the SARS MobiApp or on the eFiling system. Note that only individuals who have been selected for auto-assessment will receive the SMS. If you did not receive such an SMS, you will need to submit your Personal Income Tax Return (ITR12). Note that if you are married in community of property, each spouse is liable for tax on their half of the interest, dividends, rental income, and capital gains. To streamline the process, SARS has retrieved the ‘married in community of property’ status from the Department of Home Affairs so as to replicate the interest investment certificate on each spouse’s return where they will be taxed 50% upon assessment.

Accepting the auto-assessment: If you are happy with the outcome of the auto-assessment, you can accept it online which means that you no longer need to file a tax return because SARS has effectively done this for you. If you are due a refund, SARS will pay the refund to you within approximately 72 hours, provided that SARS has your correct bank details on record. If you owe SARS money, you can make payment as per the normal process on eFiling, via EFT or the MobiApp, although it is important to ensure that you pay timeously so as to avoid interest. Before accepting your auto-assessment, be sure to check that all the prepopulated third-party information displays correctly on your tax return before you accept your auto-assessment.

Rejecting the auto-assessment: If you are not happy with the auto-assessment, online functionality allows you to edit your returns with the deadline for submission now being 23 October 2023. If you have additional deductions to claim, such as rental income, excess medical expenses, or home office deductions that have not been pre-populated, you need to enter these online. Remember, the onus is on you to ensure that the information declared is accurate, and not fully declaring all your income can result in non-compliance penalties.

What do I need to prepare for my e-Filing?

If you have not yet received your IRP5 or IT3(a)s and other tax certificates, such as your medical aid certificate or retirement annuity certificate, you should contact your employer and/or service providers to obtain these as soon as possible. Other documentation that you will require to complete your submission includes the following:

  • Certificates received for local interest income, foreign interest income, and foreign dividend income. Remember, if you are married in community of property, the certificates received by both you and your spouse are required.
  • Proof of qualifying expenses from your medical scheme for the period 1 March 2022 to 28 February 2023.
  • A logbook to claim business travel deductions where you receive a travel allowance or a fringe benefit from an employer-provided vehicle.
  • All information pertaining to both local and foreign capital gain transactions.
  • Documents and receipts for commission-related expenditure.
  • All information relating to the letting of assets.
  • All information relating to income that must be declared or deductions that must be claimed.

Where do I file my tax returns?

As a taxpayer, you have the choice of filing your returns via the eFiling site, the MobiApp, or in person. If you choose to file via eFiling or the MobiApp, SARS agents are available to assist you telephonically. The MobiApp has recently been enhanced to include additional services which can be accessed with or without data or airtime, and these include the ability to request an eBooking appointment, confirmation request to determine whether to submit a tax return, the issuing of a Tax Registration Number, and requesting a statement of appoint.

What are the payment due dates?

This year, the payment due date for non-provisional tax-payers will be as follows:

  • For those tax-payers who are not auto-assessed, payment will be due within 30 days after a notice of assessment has been issued.
  • For those who are auto-assessed, the payment due date will be 30 days after the filing season for 2023 has closed.

Contacting SARS

Those taxpayers who cannot file online or through the app, can do so physically through a SARS branch, but this will take place by appointment only. To make an appointment with SARS, you can call the SARS Contact Centre on 0800 00 7277. Other methods of contacting SARS include:

  • USSD Channel (USSD *134*7277#): The SARS USSD channel allows taxpayers to request their tax number, account balance, request an e-Booking and determine whether they need to file their tax returns.
  • SMS 47277: Taxpayers can use the SARS SMS facility to book an appointment, confirm whether to submit a tax return, request a tax registration number and request account-related queries.
  • SARS Online Query System (SOQS): This online system allows taxpayers to raise queries with SARS without going into a SARS branch.

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