JOHANNESBURG  - With the 2018 tax season drawing to a close, Wonga South Africa has some advice for taxpayers who might qualify for a lucrative refund from the taxman.

To reduce the number of visitors to their offices, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) recently broadened the criteria for people who aren’t required to submit a tax return. If your total earnings for the 2018 tax year were no more than R350000, you might not have to submit a return.

Although the prospect of not having to do your taxes might seem appealing, not filing a return could result in your losing out on a healthy refund from the taxman.

Last year, Sars paid back R19.8billion in tax refunds, so if you want a piece of this year’s pie, it’s advisable to submit your tax return before the deadline of October 31 to avoid penalties and reap the rewards.

“The cost of living in South Africa is on the rise, thanks to things such as rising fuel costs and the increase to VAT earlier this year. Being well prepared during tax season is just one way to ensure that consumers can try to cope with their increased expenses and even recuperate some of their expenditure from Sars,” said Taryn Schmidt, Wonga South Africa’s chief marketing officer.

Wonga has outlined some important points about the 2018 tax year of which financially savvy taxpayers should be cognisant.

Not everyone has to submit a tax return. You do not have to submit a return if your total employment income for the tax year (March 2017 to February 2018) was no more than R350000 before tax. During this period, you must also have received an income from only one employer and not received any additional income such as rent and interest on investments, or a car or travel allowance.

However, you must submit a tax return if you want to claim tax-related reductions or rebates.

Qualifying for a rebate. There are a number of tax-deductible items that could put you in the running for a refund from Sars. For example, if you contributed to a pension fund, retirement annuity fund, medical scheme or a public benefit organisation (PBO), make sure you note these payments in your tax return.

Certain charities are registered as PBOs, because, in recognition of their dependence on the public’s generosity, the government has incentivised donations. However, not all non-profits are registered as PBOs, and in order to claim a rebate, you must have been issued with a section 18A receipt by the charity.

Use eFiling. If it feels like the deadline for submitting your tax return has came around faster this year, you’d be right. This year, the tax season will be 18 business days shorter than usual, to allow more time for verification before the December holidays.

The deadline for provisional and non-provisional taxpayers to submit returns at a Sars branch or by post has passed, so you will have to submit your return electronically using eFiling. Sars is also encouraging the use of eFiling to alleviate the pressure on its branches, through which 120000 returns were submitted last year.

The upside is that, provided you have the right documentation, the system is relatively easy to use. If you haven’t done so already, visit www.sarsefiling.co.za to register.

Make sure you meet the deadlines. The eFiling deadline for non-provisional taxpayers, those who earn only a salary, is October 31, 2018, whereas the deadline for provisional taxpayers, those who earn an additional income over and above their salary, is January 31, 2019.

Times are tough and a little extra might go a long way. So, if you could qualify for a rebate, be sure you complete your tax return before it’s too late. 

SUPPLIED / PERSONAL FINANCE