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How to get on top of your tax return

25 July 2024 Allan Gray

Tax filing season has officially begun, and individual taxpayers have until 21 October 2024 to submit their returns with SARS. If you are not one of the lucky ones who don’t need to file a tax return or were selected for auto-assessment, you’ll need to get your documents in order. Allan Gray’s Carrie Norden gives a step-by-step guide for tax-return success.

1. Diarise the dates

“Prepare yourself for tax season by familiarising yourself with the relevant dates,” suggests Carrie Norden, senior tax specialist at Allan Gray. Auto-assessment notices were sent by SARS from 1 to 14 July 2024. “If you didn’t qualify for that, and you are an individual non-provisional taxpayer, you need to submit your return by 21 October 2024,” Norden says.

Provisional taxpayers have slightly longer to file, with a submission deadline of 20 January 2025, while trusts should file their tax returns between 16 September 2024 and 20 January 2025.

2. Check if you need to submit a tax return

Not everyone needs to submit a tax return, says Norden. “If you earn less than R500,000 a year from one employer and don’t have any deductions you wish to claim, you don’t need to file a tax return.” Similarly, if you were chosen for an auto-assessment with SARS and you were happy with the result, there’s nothing more you need to do.”

“This year SARS is increasing the number of taxpayers who are auto-assessed,” she comments. “These taxpayers are chosen because their tax affairs are not too complicated. By using third-party data from employers, financial institutions and medical schemes, SARS is able to perform a tax calculation and issue a notice of assessment for the tax year.” The good news is that if you agree with the assessment, and you are due a refund, SARS will pay your refund directly into your bank account. If you owe SARS money, you need to ensure you pay this by the due date indicated on your Notice of Assessment (ITA34).

3. Make sure your personal information is up to date

It’s vital that your personal details on SARS’s system are up to date, Norden states. “This is particularly important for getting tax refunds,” she says. “Everything from your bank details, physical address, email address and cell number should be checked. Even your marital status is important because whether you’re married in or out of community of property may affect how investment information on your tax return is pre-populated.”

4. Gather your documents together

Now that you’ve done all the preparation, it’s time to get your documents in order. “These documents could be IRP5 tax certificates, which show the employment income you’ve received in the past tax year, as well as tax certificates from your investment managers, , which may show your contributions to retirement funds during the tax year, and any investment income you’ve earned and capital gains/ losses you incurred during the tax year,” Norden comments. Other documents include medical aid tax certificates, and documents showing any additional income earned, or deductible expenses incurred for the tax year.

5. File your return

Now it’s time to submit your return either by logging onto SARS eFiling or their mobile app. Some of the information will be populated automatically once your return generates; other information you'll need to add manually.

“Once your return is built, compare the information against your supporting documents,” suggests Norden. Third-party data unfortunately can’t be edited. “If any of the information is incorrect, you’ll need to ask the applicable third-party to resubmit the amended data to SARS.”

Next, you’ll need to add outstanding information. “This could be capital gains or losses, which can be found on your IT3(c) tax certificates, as well as rental income and additional qualifying medical expenses not covered by your medical aid,” she says.

If you’re happy, you can submit your return. “Before doing so, you should check the estimated outcome using the tax calculator on eFiling,” asserts Norden. When you get your ITA34 document, you should check it and file it for your own records.

“If at any stage you’re feeling overwhelmed, it might be worthwhile to ask for help,” says Norden. “A full list of help channels is available on the SARS website or you should chat to your financial adviser or tax practitioner,” she concludes.

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