Tax season for individuals has arrived again. It is time once more to gather your records, crunch the numbers and electronically submit.
The SARS eFiling system is top of class internationally and, in simple circumstances, a good case can be made for taxpayers to submit their own returns. Taking this fact into consideration, we at SAIT are excited to announce the launch of our first ever income tax return issue in the July/August 2017 TaxTalk magazine. The purpose of this special issue is to provide users with a handy, quick reference guide for those who prefer to avoid the legal language of SARS publications. Taxpayers can also seek the aid of commercial electronic tax systems to supplement their efforts. These systems translate tax jargon into plain English and provide informal practice tips so as to avoid unintended mishaps. Taxpayers can read more about these systems in the new edition.
That said, there is much to be said for seeking professional tax advice once returns become more complicated. It is one thing to submit your own return when you are an employee with a pension plan and a small amount of savings. It is quite another to place yourself at risk if you are running a small business, have complex investments or have a family estate to preserve. Tax laws are complex, good record keeping is essential, and mathematical errors are easy to make. Taxpayers must be prepared to deal with requests for information and possibly audits from SARS at any point in time; it is thus important to ask yourself whether you can really defend your return once submitted. You best be prepared to respond quickly before things spiral out of control.
When seeking a tax advisor, you should ensure that the advisor is a tax practitioner registered with SARS via a recognised controlling body (see section 240 of the Tax Administration Act). While we at SAIT are the only recognised controlling body dedicated solely to tax, we acknowledge that there are other professional bodies to choose from. Only a registered tax practitioner can sign a return and officially act on your behalf. Other self-professed tax preparers will ask you to sign your own return, meaning that you bear the full risk of their potential mistakes. Without a tax practitioner’s signature, nothing stands between you and SARS in terms of penalties and other costs, should you find yourself liable.
In short, our advice to taxpayers is to submit your return accurately and on time (whether you choose to do it yourself or opt to use the services of a registered tax practitioner) so you can sleep well at night without fear of unexpected audits and challenges. The manual filing due date is 22 September 2017 and the electronic filing due date is 24 November 2017 (non-provisional taxpayers) and 31 January 2018 (provisional taxpayers). Please do not forget about the obligation to file provisional (i.e., six monthly) returns for amounts not subject to third party withholding.
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