Once you have submitted your income tax return to the SA Revenue Service (Sars) you will be issued with an ITA34 - your notice of assessment for the relevant year.

At the top of your assessment, you will be given two dates that are often overlooked, although these dates are of vital importance to you as a taxpayer. The dates are your “date of assessment” and your “payment due date”. Each of these dates is unique to the relevant year of assessment and is determined based on the date which the return is submitted.

The date of assessment is important to keep in mind when you object to an assessment or when you request a correction of an assessment. In terms of the Tax Administration Act, an assessment will expire after three years, which means three years after your date of assessment. So, three years after the date of assessment you will no longer be allowed to object to the assessment or request a correction on a return that gave rise to the tax assessment.

The payment due date is the final date on which you will have to pay Sars the outstanding liability in respect of the assessment. If the outstanding liability in respect of the assessment is not paid on the payment due date, interest may start accruing one month from the payment due date.

Interest will start accruing on the first day of each month until such time that the outstanding liability in respect of that assessment is settled. This interest, along with the tax liability, will be reflected on your statement of account (your assessed account).

Does your tax debt ever prescribe? Initially, in terms of the Prescription Act, a tax debt owing to Sars would prescribe after 30 years. However, the Tax Administration Act, which was promulgated in 2012, states that the right by Sars to initiate the recovery of a tax debt will prescribe after 15 years of the date of assessment. Thus, again, it is important to be cognisant of the date of assessment when evaluating your tax situation.

Willem Oberholzer CA(SA), MCom Tax, is executive director and Jade Els MCom Tax is a tax adviser at Probity Advisory.

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