This year's tax season, which kicked off at the start of the month, is currently in full swing.

Here are some of the things that are different this year:

1. The deadline is tighter

Officially, the 2018 tax season has been shortened by three weeks, and now ends on October 31st, 2018.

When you actually need to submit depends on what kind of tax payer you are:

- Non-provisional taxpayers earn a monthly salary and have income tax deducted during the year. 

- A provisional taxpayer is someone who earns an income that is not only due to a monthly salary. These taxpayers are required to submit a tax return twice a year, an IRP6, on top of the final ITR12 return.  

These are the different deadlines:
  • All taxpayers who complete their returns manually (either through the post or at a Sars branch): September 21st.
  • All individual non-provisional taxpayers: October 31st.
  • Provisional taxpayers who will submit their returns electronically at Sars branches: October 31st.
  • Provisional taxpayers who use eFiling: January 31st 2019.

2. You may not have to fill in your retirement annuity contributions

This year, your ITR12 form (the tax return that individuals need to submit) should come with your retirement annuity contributions pre-populated.

The contributions will be based on data submitted by retirement annuity funds, says Joon Chong, tax partner at law firm Webber Wentzel.

But it may be that the correct fund numbers may not be included this time round, says Gratia Snyman of Gautax, a Joburg-based tax and accounting service.

“Make sure that all retirement annuity data, amounts and all funds have pulled through correctly to the IT12 before filing your return,” she warns. If you are using eFiling, make sure that you hit the “refresh data” button to check that the information has been changed.

3. If you’re audited, Sars will now ask for specific documents.

This year Sars has made things a little clearer for taxpayers if they get audited and are requested to submit documents, says Marc Seivitz, director of the online tax assistance service TaxTim.

Sars is now, in most cases, sending out specific letters of documents they require for the audit as well as sending out confirmation letters once the documents have been uploaded.

“This is great as in the past documents sometimes were not accepted, even when the taxpayer successfully uploaded them. Taxpayers will now no longer be confused by generic letters requesting documents that are not applicable to them. This is great news for taxpayers," says Seivitz.

4. You may not get a refund if you still owe tax

If you are entitled to a refund for this tax season, but still owe taxes for a previous year, the refund will be used to offset the outstanding amounts, says Pinky Ndaba of Durban-based firm Professional Accountants and Tax Consultants.

5. Your late tax return for a previous year may not be reviewed soon

Last year, more than 730,000 late tax returns for previous years were submitted. “While taxpayers’ desire to bring their tax affairs up to date is welcomed, this makes processing returns for the current year of assessment more challenging,” Sars said in a statement.

Accordingly, from this year, tax returns for the current tax year will take priority over outstanding returns filed for prior years.

6. Sars now has a Service Charter

Sars has committed itself to a Service Charter, which gives details about taxpayer rights and turnaround times.

For example, Sars wants to pay out refunds within seven business days of finalising the final assessment. It also gives timelines on other services:

(Sars)

If Sars doesn’t live up to these commitments, you can lodge a complaint on the eFiling platform or the Sars Complaints Office at 0860 12 12 16. Sars has to respond within 21 business days.

If you have “compelling circumstances”, or have exhausted the Sars complaint process, you can contact SA’s Tax Ombud.

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