SARS has announced changes to this year’s tax filing season, driven partly by its ongoing innovation program and partly by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst as author Margaret Mitchell pointed out there never is a convenient time for “death, taxes and childbirth”, SARS’ new changes offer time-saving benefits to taxpayers, and it is important to understand how they will impact on us in practice.
To that end we set out how Tax Season 2020 is now split into three time frames. We discuss each of them, with additional insight into the “auto assessment” notices that will be sent via SMS. We end with a table conveniently summarising the deadlines.
“Death, taxes, and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them” (Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind)
This year’s tax season will unfold in a different manner to previous years. These changes have been driven by ongoing innovation at SARS and by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tax season is split into three time frames:
- April 15 to May 31
This is the period when employers submit their reconciliation of employee earnings and all third party information providers (providers of interest certificates, medical aid certificates, retirement earnings are three examples) send their certificates to SARS and the relevant individuals.
All of the above had to be with SARS by the end of May.
SARS have used this time to verify information from the National Population Register, the Deeds Office and the Companies’ Register.
As all of this information becomes available, SARS have begun populating individuals’ tax returns.
- June 1 to August 31
Taxpayers need to ensure that all their information is up to date and accurate – for example, if they have moved, they need to reflect their new address on eFiling. Taxpayers should also be testing their eFiling usernames and passwords and ensuring they can communicate electronically with SARS. They should also verify that all third party information is correct.
SARS will be following up on third party information, checking it for accuracy. In cases where SARS finds substantial non-compliance, they may lay criminal charges against third party information providers (including employers).
During this period SARS will issue a large number of taxpayers with auto assessment notices via sms and taxpayers need to check theirs on SARS eFiling or SARS MobiApp and indicate to SARS if they accept the assessment outcome. Where the taxpayer accepts the outcome of the auto-assessment, the taxpayer will not be required to submit a return.
The auto assessment process will take a significant amount of work out of the tax season – many taxpayers benefit by not needing to submit a return and SARS do not need to assist that many people in SARS branches plus they save much admin work.
SARS will notify taxpayers whose third party data is compliant that they may file early i.e. before September 1.
- September 1 to January 31
SARS will issue a public notice to confirm which taxpayers need to submit a return.
Those taxpayers who file manually at a SARS branch must do so by October 22. Taxpayers must make an appointment online to see an assessor and need to arrive on time for their meeting with a reference number SMSed to them by SARS. Due to the impact of Covid-19, these appointment rules by SARS will be rigidly enforced.
Non-provisional taxpayers who file electronically have until November 16 to submit their tax return on SARS eFiling.
Provisional taxpayers who complete their return electronically must do so on or by January 31, 2021.
To summarise due dates:
TAX SEASON 2020 DEADLINES
|Type of Taxpayer||Channel||Due Date|
|Non-provisional and provisional taxpayers||Manually at a SARS Branch||22 October 2020|
|Non-provisional taxpayers||File electronically||16 November 2020|
|Provisional taxpayers||File electronically||31 January 2021|
Although there will be the inevitable teething problems with the new approach, it offers time saving for both taxpayers and SARS.