Taxpayers advised to seek professional help when filing returns
As the end of the year approaches, and holiday fever is in the air, salaried taxpayers should not lose sight of the fact that they need to file their tax returns with SARS by 22 November, and also be cautious about who they get to help them complete their tax returns.
Ettiene Retief, chairperson of the National Tax and Stakeholders Committee at the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) says that if a taxpayer has deductions to claim or anything out of the ordinary, it might be advisable to employ the services of a professional tax practitioner.
“The fee paid to a tax professional can be easily justified if one looks at the potential deductions a tax professional is able to advise on, and also by ensuring that the return is accurate, thereby reducing delays and possible penalties,” Retief says. “Just be sure to deal only with a registered tax practitioner. Such practitioners need to be registered with a professional body, so make sure this is the case upfront.”
An alternative option is to use SARS’s services to complete the tax return. Here Retief however advises that taxpayers should be clear that SARS is not offering an advisory service, so the official will simply help you to enter the information you supply into the correct place on the form. He or she will, for example, not be offering advice for minimising the tax to be paid, so don’t expect that.
“Because a professional tax practitioner has to be a member of SAIPA or one of the other designated bodies, if he or she makes an error on the return, the taxpayer has recourse,” Retief notes. “But if a mistake is made when filling in the tax form with the help of a SARS official, there is no recourse. The taxpayer remains responsible for any errors.”
SAIPA advises taxpayers to ensure they are able to file their tax returns timeously. Once the return is filed and SARS has raised the assessment, taxpayers have a month to pay any outstanding taxes.
“Taxpayers should do everything possible to avoid falling into default with their tax obligations – having SARS on your tail is not a pleasant experience and it could open you up to an audit,” says Retief. “Keep your tax affairs in order to maximise your peace of mind!”