The 18 biggest mistakes you can make on your tax return this year
Tax filing season is now open, and the SA Revenue Service (Sars) is waiting for returns. Doing your tax is painful enough – don’t compound your misery with these own goals.
1. Not declaring a bank account
If you declare on your tax return that you don’t have a local savings or cheque account at any bank in South Africa, and this statement is incorrect, you may be liable for an administrative penalty of up to R16,000, warns Gratia Snyman of Gautax, a Joburg-based tax and accounting service.
2. Not declaring all your investments
Sars gets information directly from banks and investment houses. If you don’t declare your investments, Sars will levy penalties and it could trigger additional assessments, says Snyman.
3. Not filing a return if you earn less than R350,000 a year
There is a huge misconception of who needs to file a return and many taxpayers think that if they earn under R350,000 then they do not need to pay tax at all, says Marc Seivitz, director of the online tax assistance service TaxTim.
“This is incorrect, there are very limited circumstances for when taxpayers do not need file their return. We always advise taxpayers to file anyway just to ensure they are always fully compliant with SARS.”
If you are younger than 65, you need a tax number if you earned more than R75,750 in the past year. Anyone earning income from any source needs to have a tax number.
4. Filling in pension contributions.
Taxpayers often mistakenly fill in provident fund and pension fund contributions via an employer on their tax return, says Seivitz. The information should already be included in your IRP5.
5. Not declaring income that has already been taxed.
Many taxpayers leave out their additional income thinking that because it was taxed by the person paying them, that they do not need to declare this, says Seivitz. Sars still requires that you declare it.
6. Making number errors.
“Mistakes in arithmetic or in transferring figures from one schedule to another contribute a great deal in a taxpayer not receiving a refund or having to pay a large sum of money,” says Pinky Ndaba of Durban-based firm Professional Accountants and Tax Consultants.
7. Misspelling names.
If your name, or that of your spouse or your children, is misspelled and does not match the tax identification number on record, that difference will cause the system to kick you out, warns Ndaba. You will not be able to complete the tax return.
8. Neglecting your records at home affairs.
Sars checks your date of birth, ID number and passport number with the department of home affairs, which is the official register of all identification information. Ensure all your information is up to date at Sars, says Snyman.
9. Not double-checking your IRP5.
Make sure you obtain your IRP5 from your employer this year and check and verify if all the information is correct before attempting to submit the return, says Snyman. If you notice any errors which might need to be corrected, ask your employer to rectify it.
“They must resubmit it to Sars via EasyFile. You will not be able to change the pre-populated fields on the return.”
10. Not declaring rental income.
This will catch up to you when you sell the property one day, as transfer attorneys submit information directly to Sars, Snyman says. It is important that you keep all relevant documents as long as you own the property.
11. Not claiming a tax-free reimbursement for business travel.
Taxpayers forget that instead of a travel allowance, they can get reimbursed tax free for business travel, says Snyman. According to Sars: “Where the distance travelled for business purposes does not exceed 12,000 kilometres per annum, no tax is payable on an allowance paid by an employer to an employee up to the rate of 355 cents per kilometre, regardless of the value of the vehicle.”
If you do opt for a travel allowance, make sure you have a letter stating the company vehicle value and calculation of the fringe benefit from your employer. Also ensure you have a proper logbook for business kilometres travelled and an invoice to proof purchase price.
12. Not keeping proof of medical expenses.
You won’t be able to get a refund for medical expenses that are not covered by your medical aid, if you don’t have the supporting documents and slips as well as proof of payment.
13. Not doubling up if you are married in community of property.
If you are married in community of property, all interest earned, capital gain and losses, rental income for properties should be declared on both spouses’ returns with the combined total amount. The Sars system will calculate the split, says Snyman, assuming you have indicated to Sars that you are married in CoP.
14. Claiming fees if you earn a salary.
If you earn a salary (which is not derived mainly from commission) you can’t claim professional subscription fees against taxable income.
15. Not saving in a tax-free account.
Remember that you can contribute up to R33,000 a year and pay no tax on interest, dividends and capital gains tax if you save it in a tax-free savings account.
16. Not claiming for donations.
You can claim deductions for public benefit organisations (PBOs) for up to 10% of your taxable income. Make sure you have a valid s18A certificate and a PBO number, which are required for your tax return, says Snyman.
17. Not declaring an investment in a venture capital fund.
An investment in a Section 12J venture capital fund can be claimed as a deduction, says Joon Chong, tax partner at law firm Webber Wentzel.
“Take note however, that amounts received on disposal of the investment after the five year period could be subject to capital gains tax.”
18. Spending your tax refund too soon.
Do not spend your tax refund (especially when only estimates were done) before a final completion letter is received from Sars, warns Snyman.
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