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SARS Extends Tax Filing Deadline

by Robert Lee,, London

17 November 2008

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has announced relief for taxpayers struggling to meet the manual submission deadline for income tax returns with a two week extension of the deadline and additional time for those who submit electronically via branches of the tax office.

The new deadline for submission of a manual return via post or drop-off at a branch is December 5, 2008. Taxpayers submitting their returns electronically have until January 23, 2009.

The decision to extend the period for manual submission was made in light of the two week extension granted at the end of August 2008 to employers to meet their pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) reconciliation obligations. The two week extension was in response to requests by employers for additional time and effectively delayed the start of tax season for individuals by two weeks.

It also takes into account that taxpayers were required to order a customised income tax return for the first time this year. A number of taxpayers have realised too late that the Income Tax Return Request form mailed to them in August was a request for a return and not the income tax return itself, the tax office said.

SARS reassured taxpayers who have yet to receive a manual return for completion that it will apply its discretion in terms of the imposition of penalties. Where the delay in issuing of the return is beyond the control of the taxpayer (e.g. due to delays with their employer’s PAYE reconciliation or due to delays in processing their request for return) SARS said that the taxpayer will be given "reasonable time to submit the return without prejudice." However, where taxpayers have waited until the last minute to request and submit a return manually, SARS warned that "less leniency will be shown."

SARS implemented the first phase of the personal income tax return reform programme in 2007 with changes to the tax return process. Under these reforms, the tax return was redesigned, simplified and reduced to 2 pages and the requirement for the submission of supporting documents was dropped. The changes for 2008 focussed on employer tax returns.

The ultimate aim for SARS with these reforms is to present the majority of individual taxpayers with a pre-populated tax return, thus vastly simplifying the tax return process.

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