The Tax Return Filing Process
Submitting Your Tax Return
The first step is to file your tax return. But before you do that, you first need to get all the necessary information and documents ready. This applies whether you submit the return yourself or outsource this function to us.
How long we take to calculate your tax and file your return depends on a few factors:
- Whether you have provided us with all the supporting documents to complete the return.
- How complex your tax is and whether your personal tax is calculated and finalised in conjunction with a group of entities.
- How many clients sent in their documents at the same time. We always try to complete your tax return as quickly as possible!
If you’re wondering which documents to get ready, download and complete our Individual Income Tax Checklist.
Receiving Your Tax Assessment
After you’ve filed your tax return, you will receive a summary of your submission in the form of an assessment (ITA34). If you filed online, you can expect to receive your assessment immediately, or within a couple of hours. Assessments are automated, which is why they’re generated so quickly. In rare cases, you may have to wait a couple of days for it to reflect on the system, and if you submitted your tax return manually, it will take a while longer for SARS to process.
Payments to and Refunds from SARS
The outcome of your assessment may be either that you need to make a payment to SARS if you did not pay enough tax during the year, or you may receive a refund if you paid more than what was required.
If you need to pay SARS, the following dates apply:
- If you submitted your return between the 1st and 15th of the month, the payment is due at the end of the next month. For instance, if you submitted between 1st and 15th September, the payment is due at the end of October.
- If you submitted between the 16th and the 31st of the month, the payment is due at the end of the month after the following month. For instance, if you submitted between 16th and 30th September, the payment is due at the end of November.
- Also, note that interest is charged on late payments from the first day of the month after payment was due.
SARS has up to 21 business days to pay out your refund. That said, SARS often reimburses taxpayers within 2-3 days. Although this is the ideal scenario, remember that they do have 21 days. Phoning SARS about your refund before this period has passed will not speed up the process.
Request for Correction
If you realised that you made a mistake on your tax return, like you omitted certain income or an expense that you wanted to claim, or you just made a typing error, you can make a request for correction. This application can be made immediately after submitting your tax return, but you have up to three years to correct erroneous returns.
SARS has the same amount of time to finalise your request for correction as they have to finalise a return. In most cases – almost 99% of the time – a request for correction will trigger a verification or audit.
Being Audited or Selected for Verification
SARS may ask you to submit supporting documentation to verify that the income you declare and expenses you claim are correct and valid. Anybody can be chosen for this verification process. Once received, these documents are physically checked by a SARS agent.
Should you be selected for verification, SARS will send you a notification letter by post, email, SMS, or through your tax practitioner, depending on which correspondence option you chose on the return. The letter will also be uploaded to the efiling system under ‘correspondence’.
If you receive such a letter, you have 21 business days from the date on the notification letter to provide these documents to SARS. You can either upload the material on efiling, or you can hand it in at a SARS branch.
Once the verification is complete, you will receive an assessment showing the outcome of their review. If you don’t send your supporting documentation to SARS in time, they will disregard all the deductions or expense claims you made, which may result in you owing tax to SARS. If you submitted all supporting documentation and they find that some expense claims are invalid, they can disregard those selected expenses.
After submission, you can expect to wait up to 60 working days for SARS to finalise your tax return.
Notice of Objection (NOO)
Should you not agree with the outcome of the review, for instance if SARS disregarded an expense claim which you believe is valid, you can object to the assessment.
To do this, you have to lodge a notice of objection stating why you disagree with the outcome and attach additional supporting documentation if necessary.
You have to lodge the objection within 30 business days of receiving the assessment.
SARS can take up to 60 business days to process your objection, but they may extend it with a further 45 business days if a senior SARS official is of the opinion that more time is needed to make a decision. An extension may be requested due to exceptional circumstances, complexity, or when large amounts are involved.
Notice of Appeal (NOA)
If SARS still disallows a deduction after your objection, you can take your objection a step further if you believe that they have made a mistake or if you disagree with the results.
To do this, you have to file a notice of appeal within 30 days of receiving the notification that the objection was declined.
SARS typically takes up to 60 working days to finalise an objection, but they may extend it up to 90 working days. There have been cases where a NOA stretched over a full year!
Which Supporting Documents Do I Need to Get Ready?
You need to have proof for every line of income that you declare as well as every deduction or expense you claim. Download our Individual Income Tax Checklist for a complete list of the information and documentation you may need to complete your tax return, as well as to send in to SARS should they select you for the verification process.
As you can see, this process can be very quick, but it can also take months to finalise. To avoid any unnecessary delays, make sure that you have documents ready to prove every expense claim you may have. And, always double-check your figures before you submit your return.
Even if you object or appeal an assessment, the outcome may still not be favourable. If the amount SARS disallowed is small, it may not be worth your while to take it further. If you’re unsure whether you should make an objection or appeal, get in touch with us.