The COSMO Girl’s Easy Guide to Fil­ing a Tax Re­turn On­line

Jo’burg tax ex­pert Charel Wright of Wright Busi­ness Part­ners knows you’re scared of fil­ing your tax re­turn your­self. She’s here to tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know to DIY tax sea­son 2018

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - MONEY -

TTax sea­son opened on 1 July, and if Wright – a SAIT-reg­is­tered tax prac­ti­tioner with a diploma in fi­nan­cial plan­ning – knows any­thing about this date, it’s that you prob­a­bly ig­nored it like a 2am text from your ex. But there’s an ar­gu­ment for not blue-tick­ing the tax­man: ‘ The pos­i­tive spin on this date is that you have an op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive any re­funds due from SARS, which you can use for a new hand­bag or a hol­i­day,’ she says. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s also true that you might have to pay in for any short­falls. But don’t let that get you down – there are some le­gal ways to save on tax.

If you’re a full-time em­ployee earn­ing a salary, the most im­por­tant rule is not to miss the sub­mis­sion dead­lines. ‘If you do, you’ll be li­able to pay penal­ties,’ says Wright. Pull up your cal­en­dar and mark these dates RN:

• 21 Septem­ber 2018: Dead­line for tax re­turns sub­mit­ted via post or dropped off at a SARS branch.

• 31 Oc­to­ber 2018: Dead­line for e-fil­ing.

• 31 Jan­uary 2019: Dead­line for e-fil­ing for pro­vi­sional taxpayers.

Okay, let’s pause right there. What’s a pro­vi­sional tax­payer? ‘A pro­vi­sional tax­payer – like a free­lancer – earns an in­come other than a salary from an em­ployer ,’ says Wright. Most em­ploy­ees are non-pro­vi­sional taxpayers, but if you’re con­fused about whether or not this in­cludes you, she sug­gests con­tact­ing a tax pro­fes­sional for ad­vice.

Didn’t tick any of the items on that list? In that case, you need to sub­mit a tax re­turn this year.

‘I’ve been a tax prac­ti­tioner for 20 years, and we’ve seen many changes to the sys­tem of tax fil­ing,’ says Wright. ‘Thank­fully, SARS has tried to fix many of the com­pli­ca­tions in­volved in sub­mit­ting tax re­turns. One of the pos­i­tive changes was the in­tro­duc­tion of e-fil­ing, which makes it pos­si­ble to file re­turns on­line. You could use a reg­is­tered tax prac­ti­tioner or file it your­self – but I of­ten won­der how many clients fil­ing their own re­turns are do­ing it cor­rectly and re­ceiv­ing the full ben­e­fits.

A tax prac­ti­tioner is not a mir­a­cle worker, so we can’t claim more money than you’re legally due – but we have the knowl­edge to ad­vise you on dif­fer­ent ways to op­ti­mise your tax sav­ings, and to en­sure that the in­for­ma­tion sup­plied to SARS is cor­rect and in ac­cor­dance with pre­scribed laws. We also have ex­ten­sive knowl­edge about what can and can’t be claimed from SARS, as well as how to do it cor­rectly.

‘A few com­mon mis­takes we see in­volve in­cor­rectly com­plet­ing the sec­tions on med­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions and ex­penses, for­get­ting to sub­mit re­tire­ment an­nu­ity pay­ments or sup­ply­ing in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion about cap­i­tal gains tax. This could be detri­men­tal to the out­come of your sub­mis­sion. If you’re con­fused, con­tact a pro­fes­sional for as­sis­tance. It might cost you a lit­tle bit in fees, but should you end up hav­ing to cor­rect the wrong in­for­ma­tion that was sub­mit­ted, it will cost you even more. Com­plet­ing your e-fil­ing re­turns isn’t dif­fi­cult, but fil­ing them cor­rectly is very im­por­tant.’

Ac­cord­ing to Wright, the av­er­age cost for the com­ple­tion of an em­ployee’s tax re­turn by a reg­is­tered tax prac­ti­tioner is about R650 – but it may vary ac­cord­ing to your pro­file. This is a pro­fes­sional fee and usu­ally in­cludes com­pil­ing your in­for­ma­tion, com­plet­ing and sub­mit­ting your re­turn and han­dling cor­re­spon­dence. If SARS de­cides to au­dit you, and ad­di­tional work is re­quired, an ad­di­tional fee may be charged.

So you’re ready to do the thing and sub­mit your tax re­turns on time,

but your main ob­jec­tive is to find out whether you can ac­tu­ally save on your taxes or get any­thing back from the tax­man. Wright says there are a few ways in which you can save. ‘Re­tire­ment an­nu­ities, pen­sions and prov­i­dent funds are a dou­ble whammy when it comes to sav­ing on tax,’ she says. ‘You’re sav­ing for your pen­sion and re­ceiv­ing tax re­lief. By con­tribut­ing to­wards your re­tire­ment in one of these ways, you could deduct up to 27,5% of your gross re­mu­ner­a­tion or tax­able in­come, sub­ject to an an­nual limit of R350 000.’

The one ques­tion Wright hears most of­ten is, ‘Why is my col­league, who earns the same in­come as I do, get­ting more money back?’ ‘Ev­ery per­son’s tax pro­file dif­fers, even if it’s not ob­vi­ous,’ she says. ‘Your col­league might be pay­ing more into a re­tire­ment an­nu­ity or driv­ing more busi­ness kilo­me­tres. There is never an ob­vi­ous an­swer un­less you have all the de­tails.

‘ The main rea­son peo­ple find it in­tim­i­dat­ing to do their own taxes is the fear of mak­ing a mis­take and hav­ing to pay the tax­man ex­tra. But un­less you earn ad­di­tional in­come apart from your salary, this shouldn’t be the case. Em­ploy­ers, by law, have to deduct the cor­rect tax ac­cord­ing to your in­come and pay this to SARS. If you find that you have an amount ow­ing to the Re­ceiver, it’s a good idea to have the as­sess­ment checked and ver­i­fied. There are ways to have it cor­rected, in case you sub­mit­ted the wrong in­for­ma­tion or com­pleted the re­turn in­cor­rectly. Never just ac­cept the word of SARS with­out mak­ing sure that you do ac­tu­ally owe them. But al­ways en­sure that you pro­vide SARS with ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion – and con­sult a pro­fes­sional if in doubt.’

‘The main rea­son peo­ple ”ind it in­tim­i­dat­ing to do their own taxes is the fear of mak­ing a mis­take and hav­ing to pay the tax­man ex­tra’

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