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Income tax filing season opens tomorrow, and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) will again be encouraging you to file your 2011/12 tax return electronically.
To help you to complete your return electronically, SARS will unveil a range of new tools and software for internet, tablet and smartphone users on Monday, when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula will officially open the 2012 filing season.
If you want to be an early filer, as of tomorrow you can eFile your tax return from SARS’s eFiling website, www.sarsefiling.co.za
When SARS’s branches open on Monday, they will be able to assist you to complete your income tax return electronically. SARS agents at the branches will guide you through filling in your return if you have any concerns about filing your return electronically.
Last year, SARS branches countrywide helped more than 1.5 million taxpayers to submit their returns electronically.
But if you have access to a computer, a tablet or a smartphone and would prefer not to brave the cold weather, or the queues or the parking problems that may face you if you visit a SARS branch, you may want to wait until the new SARS tools are up and running so you can use them.
The “2012 Tax Season Guide” on SARS’s website (www.sars.gov.za) says that one of the four innovations SARS has planned is online access to trained agents.
According to the guide, you will be able to access a facility known as Help-You-eFile while you eFile. This will enable you to share with a SARS agent the internet browser window that displays your electronic return. The agent will talk you through completing your return and help you with any difficulties you are experiencing.
The guide also says SARS plans to launch a mobisite from which you will be able to file your return using a cellphone that can access the internet. The guide says when you visit www.sarsefiling.co.za using your cellphone’s internet browser, you will automatically be directed to SARS’s mobisite.
A third tool you may want to use if you have a smartphone or a tablet is the eFiling application (app). According to the guide, the new eFiling app will be available soon.
And lastly, SARS has put together some videos that will be available on YouTube (youtube.com/sarstax). The videos show how Riaan, “an ordinary guy in an ordinary office”, registers for eFiling, submits his income tax return, and how he scans supporting documents that SARS asks him to submit.
SARS says that last year more than 99 percent of the almost five million returns that were submitted were filed electronically.
SARS is no longer sending out paper returns, but this does not mean you cannot choose to file a paper return.
If you want to file a paper return, you must ask SARS to post a pre-populated return to you by calling the SARS Contact Centre on 0800 00 72 77, or you can visit a SARS branch and complete an Income Tax Return Request (ITRR) form.
All tax returns are pre-populated with information that SARS obtained from your employer during the recent employers’ filing season and from third parties, such as your bank, investment house or pension provider.
Stiaan Klue, chief executive of the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners, warns you should take note of the tax return deadlines, because failure to submit your return by the due date will result in very steep administrative penalties.
SARS is imposing penalties on those taxpayers who do not submit their returns and/or have failed to update their personal details, such as their address or banking details, with SARS, Klue says.
Penalties start at R250 and are applied for each month you fail to meet the required deadline.
Klue says you should also be aware that SARS can appoint an agent, such as your employer, to collect the outstanding penalties and interest amounts from you and pay them over to SARS.
For more information on the 2012 filing season, visit www.sars.gov.za and follow the links to the “Tax season” webpage.
* Friday, September 28, 2012: The deadline for taxpayers who submit paper tax returns by post or who deposit them into a drop-box at a branch of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
* Friday, November 23, 2012: The deadline for taxpayers who submit their returns electronically at a SARS branch or via eFiling.
* Thursday, January 31, 2013: The deadline for provisional taxpayers who submit their income tax returns via eFiling.
WHO MUST SUBMIT A RETURN?
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has issued the following guidelines on who should submit an income tax return:
* If you are under 65 years of age and received an income of more than R59 750 from one or more sources, or if you received more than R120 000 from a single source of employment, during the year of assessment from March 1, 2011 to February 29, 2012.
* If you are between 65 and 74 years of age and received an income of more than R93 150 from one or more sources, or if you received more than R120 000 from a single source, during the year of assessment from March 1, 2011 to February 29, 2012.
* If you are 75 years and older and received more than R104 261 from one or more sources, or if you received more than R120 000 from a single source, during the year of assessment from March 1, 2011 to February 29, 2012.
Stiaan Klue, chief executive of the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners, says if you earn less than R120 000 a year, you need to make sure you are not required to submit a return, because this exemption is qualified.
Your salary must be from a single source and employee’s tax must have been deducted or withheld from the full amount, he says.
If you earned a salary of less than R120 000 a year but, for example, incurred capital gains in excess of R20 000, you must still submit a return, Klue says.
Also, he says, if you carried on any trade as a natural person and not in your capacity as an employee, you are expected to submit a return, even though your taxable income may be less than R120 000 for the year.
SARS has developed a wizard (or tool) to help you to determine if you need to submit a return. To access the wizard, click on the “Tax season” link on SARS’s homepage (www.sars.gov.za) and then “Must I submit a tax return?”.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, the wizard will tell you that you are required to submit a return:
* Did you conduct any trade in South Africa?
* Did you receive an allowance, such as a travel, subsistence or office-bearer’s allowance?
* Do you hold any funds or assets outside South Africa that have a value of more than R50 000?
* Did you have a local capital gain/loss exceeding R20 000?
* Did you receive any income or capital gain in a foreign currency?
* Do you hold any rights in a controlled foreign company?
* Did you receive an income tax return, or were you requested to submit an income tax return?
Klue says although the wizard is helpful, you need to be sure you are familiar with the terminology it uses so you can accurately answer the questions. If you are in any doubt, seek the help of a professional tax adviser, because ignorance cannot be used as an excuse for not complying with the law, he says.
You can also obtain help from SARS by calling the SARS Contact Centre on 0800 00 72 77.
If you are a first-time taxpayer, you need to register and get a tax number. Only once you have a tax number can you register for eFiling and fill in your return online.