Tax practitioner services

Filing a tax return can be confusing and time consuming, particularly if you have more than one source of income or are eligible for several deductions.
As frustrating as bureaucracy can sometimes be, expressing your irritation to anyone at SARS will probably not get you far. If any issues arise, it’s best to contact SARS professionally in writing so that your discussion is recorded and can be referenced.

If you wish to relieve yourself of the burden of filing a tax return, it’s worth seeking professional assistance. Although you will need to pay a fee for the services of a tax practitioner, it can actually work out cheaper than having an entire claim disallowed or being issued with a penalty for an incorrect claim. Furthermore, the fees are likely to be deductible against your taxable interest.

Registered tax practitioners

If you do decide to seek support in submitting your tax return, it’s important to only hire an accredited tax practitioner who is registered with SARS. They should also be registered with an approved controlling body, such as the South African Institute of Tax Professionals, as a controlling body ensures that members are up-to-date with their personal taxes, don’t have criminal records, and have the necessary qualifications to accurately file other people’s taxes.

It is your responsibility as a taxpayer to ensure that any tax practitioner you use is accredited and registered. Only a registered practitioner can legally complete a return on your behalf (you will need to sign a power of attorney form), as well as maintain your details and register you for new taxes.

If you get audited, the tax practitioner should also be able to handle the audit on your behalf. This is often just a matter of submitting supporting documents to SARS, which they will already have. Be sure to choose a professional who you feel confident will be there for you if you have any trouble with SARS at a later date. Someone with an office number and an office address, as well as an online presence, will likely be your best bet in this regard.

It’s advisable to do your research before choosing a practitioner, as a bad one could end up costing you a lot more than just their fee. Before deciding who to use, ask them some questions. Firstly, find out if they are registered with SARS and with which controlling body. If they are registered, they will have a SARS practitioner number, as well as a membership number with their controlling body.

Every tax return is different so it is best to make sure your practitioner has experience dealing with something similar to your particular situation. If you have a basic return with only an IRP5, then most tax practitioners should be able to file it easily. However, If you have investments or earn rental income, then your tax return may be a bit more complicated and require more expertise.

A good practitioner is likely to ask you some questions in order to gain an understanding of your personal tax situation. Your answers will enable them to inform you what documents you will need to submit, so that you can avoid doing things piecemeal, which could delay the filing of your return and your tax refund.

Do also be aware that good tax professionals usually file their clients’ returns electronically, either using SARS’ e-Filing system or specialised tax software. Filing returns electronically rather than manually is much quicker (so you will get your money much quicker if you are due a refund), and it also minimises room for human error.


Rather than asking a practitioner what their fees are, ask how they calculates their fees. The fee is likely be based on the complexity of your tax return and how long it will take to file it.

It’s important to not agree to a contingency fee, which is when a practitioner calculates their fee based on a percentage of your tax refund. Do note that this practice is prohibited, as it is argued that it encourages practitioners to try to claim more money than is actually due — be that through under-declaration of income or inflated deductions.

Financial yoga

You don’t have to be able to do a headstand or salute the sun every day to appreciate the benefits of yoga. Now, this isn’t to say that everyone needs to start a daily practice, but it can be helpful to recognise that we can learn a lot from this ancient discipline.

When you practice yoga, you are not only studying the asanas (postures), but you are also honing valuable life skills, such as flexibility, balance and mindfulness. This Thursday, 21st June marks International Yoga Day and is a time to reflect on how yoga is to be lived, not just performed. What you learn on the yoga mat can be applied to several contexts — including your financial situation.

With this in mind, here are 7 tips to help you to achieve a more zen state of mind when it comes to your financial affairs.

1. Set your intentions

Yogis study yoga not just to master a posture, but to use the posture to understand and transform themselves.

Before starting a sequence, many yogis take a moment to connect their minds to their bodies and set an intention — such as ‘relax’, ‘persevere’, ‘accept’ — that they would like to bring into their practice (and life). Doing this brings awareness to what you are seeking, and helps you to direct your energy towards aligning your actions with what you want to achieve. When it comes to your financial situation, being clear of your intentions can help you to commit to achieving what is important to you.

There is no competition in yoga, so it’s important to keep your focus on your own practice and self-development. To do this, it can help to find a focal point on which to rest your gaze in order to gain more stability. As in yoga, find your focal point in your financial life, as this will help you to remain steadfast even during the most challenging times. When you are faced with fears or conflicting options, focus on what you are trying to achieve so that you can stay on track to meeting your goals.

2. Be prepared

In a yoga class, there tends to be a build-up towards the more difficult postures, which come towards the end of a session. Otherwise your body may not be able to do them properly without injury. Firstly, you need to warm up your muscles, and open your hips or stretch your hamstrings, to be prepared for the final, more challenging poses in a sequence. Preparation is an important part of the flow and helps you to progress.

The same applies to your finances. Once you have decided on your long-term financial goals, you can be prepared and work towards them over time.

3. Find your balance

When you assume a posture, you need to find your balance — and this may not always be where you would expect it. For example, rather than centring yourself over your whole foot, it can help to rather shift your balance over your toes or your heel. How you find your balance can subtly change a posture and your attitude towards it.

Balance is also key when it comes to approaching your wealth portfolio. What small changes can you make to readdress your state of affairs and make your financial situation easier to maintain? Don’t be afraid to adjust something to find a better balance, or change any habits that are making you uncomfortable.

4. Be flexible

If you practice yoga regularly, you are likely to become more flexible — both physically and mentally. Saying you are not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a bath, and many yogis believe that it is often not the body that is stiff, but the mind.

Increasing flexibility can help to improve your life and your financial situation greatly, as circumstances change and obligations arise, so it’s important to be flexible. If you can adapt your spending habits for the sake of your financial future, you stand to be much more comfortable in the long run. Being financially flexible on even small things, such as how many coffees you buy each week or how many times you eat at a restaurant, can have a notable impact on your overall budget. Work on your flexibility and strength, and you’ll learn to bend so you don’t break.

5. Find your edge

Yoga is a balance of holding on and letting go; control and surrender. During a yoga practice, you are faced with deciding when to push yourself further and when to accept you are at your limit. The pose begins when you want to get out of it, and it’s often a question of breathing through any discomfort to the extent that your body allows. A large part of the process is working out how far you are able to move into a stretch — if you don’t go far enough, you may not progress, but if you go too far without listening to your body, you could end up causing yourself injury. There is a point between these two places where you can find that balance, and that is known as your ‘edge’. The edge is where challenge and acceptance go hand in hand.

From a financial point of view, it’s a matter of finding a balance between your income and expenditure, and how much you spend and save, so that you can strengthen your situation without hurting yourself. Find your edge and push yourself to your limits comfortably.

6. Take care of yourself

Yoga is not just about self-improvement, it’s also about self-acceptance. It is important to release anything that does not serve you and look after yourself so that you can live a healthy and happy life.

By taking care of your financial well-being, you can avoid the stress of being in debt, and ensure you have enough saved for your retirement. A bit of self-care now can help you in the long run.

7. Be mindful

Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment and living in the now. In yoga, holding a posture, or paying attention to how your body moves through a sequence, can help you to remain present.

Mindfulness is a question of self-mastery. The moment your mind turns elsewhere, it’s easy to fall off balance. And focusing your mind can help with your finances too — be that committing to a budget or saving for a goal.

Practice yoga on your finances as often as possible. And don’t forget to breathe…

5 tax return tips

Brace yourself — the start of income tax season is nigh, which means it’s time to prepare to file your tax return. It’s worth always trying to submit your tax return sooner rather than later, as being efficient can save you standing in line at SARS at the last minute if any problems arise.

As a provisional taxpayer, it’s important to register and declare all sources of income to SARS, along with a workings table to show how you arrived at the total submitted. Do be sure to accurately file all proof of interest and income, such as your bank statements and payslips, as well as any proof of allowable deductions, such as medical certificates and retirement annuities. You are legally required to keep all supporting documentation for five years, so find a safe place to put everything you have collected.

By ensuring that you submit all relevant documents from the get-go, you can avoid an arduous audit later down the line. And if you are audited, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by submitting all requested documents straight away. Allow 30 working days before following up on an audit and keep the reference number to hand in case SARS take longer than their permitted 90 days to provide feedback.

A feature on the eFiling website is an inbox, to which taxpayers will receive direct correspondence from SARS. This inbox is also a way for SARS to officially request any additional information, so be sure to read everything you are sent and act accordingly.

Although filing your return can feel like a chore, there are ways you can file your return to save you time, money and frustration this tax season.

1. Medical expenses

It’s advisable to submit all your medical expenses to your medical aid provider — even if you won’t be compensated for everything. The total amount will nevertheless be put on your certificate and could be considered for credits when you submit your return.

Keep all proof of payments for any medical expenses that you have incurred, as SARS will need to review when the amount was actually paid.

To claim any expenses that have not been paid by your medical aid, submit a summary of these expenses to SARS along with the 10 largest invoices and a statement that you can provide proof of other medical expenses if required (make sure you keep all of these invoices for five years).

2. Travel expenses

When it comes to travel claims, it is useful to keep a daily record of your travel expenses. Then you can complete your tax return in accordance with this travel logbook, rather than submitting a return and attempting to create a logbook from memory if you are audited.

If you have bought a car for business purposes, do not include any finance costs as part of the price you paid, as this does not form part of its actual value. Remember to submit the purchase agreement with your logbook when you file your return.

3. Home office expenses

Before you put in a claim for any home office expenses, be sure to have all the correct documents in place. These may include a letter stating that you work from home, expense documents, and a sketch of the property showing the designated area that you use for business.

It is important that there is a distinct demarcation between your office and your home. If you try to claim for any personal item in your home office, it will serve as evidence that you are not using the area exclusively for work. You should also be able to prove, if required, that you do not need to walk through your office space to your home, as then it could be argued that the office is not exclusively used for business, which could result in a penalty.

4. Rental income

Make a summary of your rental income, and deduct any costs you have incurred to generate this income. This includes estate agent fees, levies and rates, and repairs and maintenance costs. However, do note that you cannot claim capital expenditure, but you can deduct wear and tear costs.

5. Retirement annuity

If you don’t already have one, consider getting a retirement annuity as this is tax deductible. Don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to discuss the best ways you can save for your retirement and make the most of any tax benefits.

What you need to know about tax season

Along with the chill of winter, the opening of income tax season next month may send shivers down your spine. The official date from which you can file your tax return (ITR12) this year is Sunday, 1st July 2018. From that point, taxpayers can start submitting their 2018 personal income tax returns for the 2017/18 tax year, which runs from 1st March 2017 to 28th February 2018.

Due to the country’s flailing economic growth and its huge budget deficit, SARS is under extra pressure this year to meet revenue targets. If you earn a taxable income from a salary, commission or fees, you will need to pay income tax. And if this income is above the tax threshold for the past year of assessment, you should register as a taxpayer with SARS and file a tax return online via the eFiling system. If you are younger than 65 years old, this threshold is ZAR75,750 and it increases to ZAR117,300 if you are between 65 and 74 years old.

Although you need to register if you are above the threshold, it’s worth noting that if you have just one employer and your gross salary for the full year of assessment is under ZAR350,000 then it’s not compulsory to submit an actual return. This is provided that you don’t have any additional sources of income and don’t wish to claim any allowable tax deductions, such as for medical expenses or retirement annuities. If you are unsure about whether you need to submit an income tax return, please send us a quick message with our form, email or phone.

If you earn any income other than your salary, then you are a provisional taxpayer, which means you have to file provisional tax returns, known as IRP6s. For provisional taxpayers, tax season normally runs from July to November. There are three periods — the filing and payment of your first provisional tax is due on 31st August (this represents 50% of your estimated annualised tax liability). The second installment is then due on 28th February (this is the other estimated 50%) and then you will need to pay any remaining balance by 30th September after you have worked out the actual tax liability for the year.

Documents required

To complete the process, you will need to prove your income by submitting documents, such as an IRP5/IT3(a) from your employer or pension fund, financial statements, tax certificates for investment income, and tax-free investments certificate(s). You will also need to show proof of any allowable deductions, such as medical aid contribution certificates and receipts, retirement annuity contribution certificates, a travel logbook if you receive a travel allowance or use a company car, and information pertaining to any withheld foreign tax credits.

If you visit a SARS branch to submit your return, rather than completing it online via eFiling, then be sure to bring a proof of identity, such as your ID, passport or driving licence.

SARS is reportedly striving to provide good services to taxpayers during tax season by implementing additional security measures for those who need to change any personal details (taxpayers will be required to show their ID, scan their fingerprints, and have their photo verified by Home Affairs).

It is advisable to use the eFiling platform to submit your tax returns as this can be accessed 24/7 and is the easiest way to submit a return. Any eFilers can also make use of the free Help-You-eFile service by clicking on the Help-You-eFile icon and following the steps to be put in touch with a SARS agent who can hopefully be of assistance. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting to discuss any of your obligations and how they could affect your financial situation.