Get Sorted: File Your Tax Return On Time!

By Justin Wolff

The end of February marks the end of another tax year and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to try and make this year’s filing a bit less crazy than the last.

When can we start?

“The preparation phase for taxpayers takes place between April and June each year,” says Adrian Lackay from SARS.  “Start compiling a file with all the relevant documents so that you’re ready for the start of Tax Season.  Things like IRP5s and IT3a’s from your employer, certificates from medical aids, pension funds and other financial institutions.  The final dates for Tax Season 2010 have not yet been announced, but it’s likely to be around the start of July and should end sometime in November.”

What’s the easiest way to file?

“We recommend that you register for SARS eFiling service.  It’s a free, secure online income tax return system which allows taxpayers to quickly, easily and conveniently (from your home or office 24 hours a day, seven days a week) complete and submit returns.  And response times from SARS are much quicker if you eFile – the average turnaround time to receive an assessment by eFiling is just 24 hours.”

And if I don’t have access to a computer?

“The next best way to submit your return is to visit your nearest SARS branch where there are experienced SARS personnel to help you to submit your return. Not only do you get guidance on how to complete the return, what deductions are allowable and what income must be declared, but the turnaround times are also very fast.”

Do I need to use a tax practitioner?

“That all depends on the complexity of a taxpayer’s tax affairs and their own tax knowledge and literacy,” says Lackay.  “Most taxpayers who have relatively simple tax affairs find it fairly straightforward to complete their own returns on eFiling. Those who are not too sure of their obligations and what is allowed and what is not can visit a branch and our staff will help them to complete their return for free! Of course, those with more complicated and complex tax affairs can make use of the services of a tax practitioner to assist not only with the completion of returns but also with legitimate tax planning to make sure their affairs are within the tax legislation.”

“A major benefit of using a tax preparation service,” says Talitha van den Bergh, Senior Tax Consultant at Tax Relax, “is that you get a clear indication of what your tax liability is likely to be.  That means that you’re less likely to get an unpleasant surprise when your tax assessment arrives, and if you have to pay in you’ll be prepared for it.”

“Whatever you do,” says Lackay, “don’t wait until the last minute before deadline before submitting your return.  Every year we’re swamped by the procrastinators – the queues are long at the branches and the call centres.  If you want the best service, submit early, well before the deadline.”