To do or NOT TO DO - this is the question?

More than one million taxpayers have already been alerted by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) that they have been auto-assessed for the 2020 tax year.

Sars has used third party data to pre-populate these taxpayers’ returns. The draft assessments are based on the data provided to the revenue service and information available to it.

Taxpayers who receive an SMS from Sars notifying them of the outcome of their auto-assessment may choose to accept the outcome, says Sars head of communications Siphithi Sibeko.

If they accept the assessment, there is no need to file a return, since Sars has done it on their behalf.

They will be able to press ‘Accept’ on the MobiApp or the eFiling platforms.

However, taxpayers do not have to accept the draft assessment if they have additional information that has not been captured. They can make use of the ‘Edit’ function on the electronic platforms to amend the pre-populated return. Sars will then assess them based on the additional information provided, says Sibeko.

Verify your information

The pre-populated return will be available on the electronic platforms to verify if it contains all the relevant information of the taxpayer.

Sars has received 126 million data records from financial institutions, retirement funds, medical insurers and employers – and also draws information from the population register, companies register, national vehicle register and other asset registers.

Sibeko says Sars moves “from the premise that all employers were compliant”.

However, from Sars’s statement it is evident that only 57% (325 964) of the expected 567 508 employer reconciliations had been submitted by last week.

Only 262 091 of the reconciliations received were submitted on time, which was the end of May.

“As we use third party data to pre-populate individual tax returns and calculate auto-assessments, this may result in a negative experience for those individuals who were employed by non-compliant employers,” Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said in a statement.

Taxpayers are advised to check their auto-assessment to ensure that all information, including that on their IRP5, has been captured and that it was captured correctly. If there has been a mistake on their tax certificate issued by their employer, they will have to ensure that it is corrected before Sars will accept an edited return.


Non-provisional taxpayers (generally taxpayers with one employer and no additional deductions) who have not been auto-assessed will have from September 1 until November 16 to file their returns electronically (eFiling or MobiApp), with the assistance of a Sars official if necessary.

They will only be able to get assistance at a branch if they have an appointment. Sars is discouraging any “unscheduled visits” to their offices in light of the need for social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“You may end up in undesirable long queues which we want to avoid as far as possible,” Kieswetter said.

Non-provisional taxpayers who are not registered for eFiling or are not using the MobiApp and elect to file at a Sars branch will have until October 22 to do so. However, they will also not receive assistance at a Sars office without an appointment.

Provisional taxpayers who have not been auto-assessed will have until January 29, 2021 to file their returns. These are taxpayers with more complicated tax returns and additional sources of income and expenses.

Sars has committed itself to be “better stewards” of taxpayer money. Kieswetter has appealed to government, as the largest employer in the country, to ensure compliance of civil servants.

Sars has also engaged with registered controlling bodies such as at the South African Institute of Tax Professionals and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, business associations and auditing and accounting firms.

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