Taxpayers warned against bad tax help

Johannesburg -  Taxpayers should be cautious about whom they get to help them complete their tax returns, warned Ettiene Retief, chairperson of the national tax and stakeholders committee at the SA Institute of Professional Accountants (Saipa).

"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 the South African Revenue Service (Sars) by November 22," said Retief.

"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."

Retief said the fee paid to a tax professional can easily be 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.

"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," he said.

An alternative option is to use Sars' services to complete the tax return.

Here Retief, however, advised that taxpayers should be clear that Sars is not offering an advisory service. The official will simply help a taxpayer to enter the information supplied 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," said Retief.

"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."

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," said Retief.

"Keep your tax affairs in order to maximise your peace of mind."