Filing tax returns is a nightmare for most. This is even more true when it comes to expatriates. In fact, more often than not, people are in hot water with the South African Revenue Service without being the wiser.
The most common misconception for South Africans living abroad is that they no longer need to file tax returns. Of course this is true in certain instances – but it would not harm to make a simple enquiry in this regard. According to tax practitioner, Shohana Mohan, one of the most common problems expats encounter, occurs when they apply for lump-sum payouts from retirement annuities and other pension investments. In this instance, SARS will not grant tax directives since no tax returns have been filed.
Expats who have been granted tax exemption and those who have financially emigrated are some of the exceptions and, of course, South African tax residents living abroad are eligible for several exemptions and deductions. The gist of tax returns has, and always will be, for South Africans to be forthcoming about their sources of income. In addition to this South Africans living abroad are urged to keep meticulous records. This includes documentation such as their passport copies for the tax year in question, a comprehensive travel itinerary, employment contract and secondment letters as well as proof of tax paid or payable to host countries.
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