SARS’ announcement that it has started auto-assessing certain taxpayers may lead some people to believe they no longer need to worry about their tax submissions.

This is not the case, according to Thamsanqa Msiza, Head of Individual Tax Returns at Tax Consulting South Africa. “The onus still lies with the taxpayer to ensure all information submitted to SARS is complete and correct,” he says.

So before accepting the precompiled assessment, they should take the time to check that all relevant data is present and accurate. Neglecting to do so may be seen by the tax authority as a deliberate attempt to evade tax and could result in stiff penalties.

What is a SARS auto-assessment?

With modern digital technologies at its disposal, SARS is able to collect electronic tax data from employers, financial institutions, medical schemes, retirement annuity fund administrators and other 3rd party data providers. As such, it can compile and assess tax submissions with little input from the taxpayer.

SARS announced that, during August, it will assess a large number of taxpayers automatically in this way, reportedly around 3.1 million. They will be notified by SMS and can access the precompiled assessment through eFiling or SARS’ MobiApp. Here, they can review the assessment and click an Accept button to accept the figures, or click an Edit button to amend the information.

“Apart from this being a new system and therefore prone to teething problems, there are several other reasons why the precompiled information may be inaccurate,” warns Msiza.

What to watch out for

Even those who are employed may earn extra on the side from gigs, property rentals or other sources of income. Similarly, individuals who are self-employed and have received taxable earnings exceeding R83,100 in the 2019/2020 tax year, will be considered Provisional Taxpayers and must declare this income as SARS will have no record of it.

Other instances highlighted by Msiza include an investment tax certificate, for example, appearing on the assessment although the taxpayer holds no such investment. Or an employer may fail to submit a copy of the employee’s IRP5.

There may also be outstanding deductions, like log book mileage against one’s travel allowance, that can only be captured from an employee’s own records. Or donations for which no tax certificate has been loaded on the return.

“In cases like these, the taxpayer must approach the issuer to correct the data and resubmit it to SARS promptly,” says Msiza

A convenience, not a pass

A SARS auto-assessment will be a welcome convenience for many. However, it doesn’t take all the work out of tax submissions and does not release the taxpayer from the responsibility of declaring all their earnings accurately.

“If you receive an SMS notifying you that you have been auto-assessed, take the time to check the preloaded information carefully against your own tax certificates,” advises Msiza.

Those with complex tax affairs should be particularly cautious and should seek direction from their tax attorney or tax practitioner. This way, they will avoid unpleasant surprises later on and assure themselves that they have made effective use of any tax relief to which they are legally entitled.


Thamsanqa Msiza - Senior Tax Consultant

Thamsanqa Msiza
Head of Tax Returns