Be Ready For SARS Employee Audits

Category LawDotNews

Be Ready For SARS Employee Audits

"Forewarned is forearmed" (Wise old saying)

SARS is having trouble meeting its revenue targets and this is clearly putting enormous pressure on the South African economy. Further economic deterioration in the economy will probably result in a downgrade to junk status by Moodys. This will mean that all three of the major ratings agencies will have consigned our economy to junk status which means further currency weakness and probably a recession.

Most of the tax paid in South Africa is paid by individuals and it is logical that SARS will focus on maximizing its revenue with this segment of taxpayers. Thus, one can expect more auditing by SARS of employees' tax returns.

Implications for employees

Any SARS queries will be initially directed at employees who will have to justify what they have claimed. Most employees will go back to their employer and say, for example, 'there is this query on my car allowance and how should I respond?' 

It would make sense for employers to ask all employees to run SARS' questions through the employer so that SARS receive a consistent answer (employees may have their own tax adviser to help the employee respond to the query, but the adviser may not understand how the employer's tax administration works).

Implications for employers

If SARS are not satisfied with the responses to their queries, they may start to look at how the employer administers its employee tax obligations. 

SARS places a substantial onus on employers to collect tax and to pay it over to the Revenue authorities. This involves a knowledge of taxes like:
Remuneration and benefits paid to: 
expatriate employees
local employees
executives and directors
Retirement benefits for employees, executives and directors
Payments to labour brokers and independent contractors 
Share incentive schemes
Cash book payments
Gifts, prizes, awards and gift vouchers
Loans to employees
Company cars 
Travel allowances and reimbursements 
The Employment Tax Incentive (ETI).

These taxes are all different and require an understanding of tax legislation and the administrative systems required to process and collect the taxes.

In making their enquiries of the employer, SARS will most likely look to get an understanding of the employer's systems and if dissatisfied with the response may audit the employer.

An audit can take up to one year to complete and apart from the stress of the audit there will be penalties, interest plus tax due where SARS finds the tax has been incorrectly calculated. SARS can also go back several years when they find errors, and this can become a costly exercise. At the moment, SARS appears to be homing in for the most part on the ETI, labour brokers, company cars and travel allowances - perhaps therefore pay particular attention to these taxes. 

So, it is a prudent idea to frequently test how robust your systems are and how well you understand the tax laws. SARS often tweaks the law and issues interpretation notes on how businesses should levy and pay over tax.   

Having an independent viewpoint can be invaluable when testing your systems - make use of your accountant to help you as apart from being at arm's length he or she has the skill and experience to assist in this important exercise.  
earmed" (Wise old saying)

Author: HG Chartered Accountants

Submitted 06 Sep 19 / Views 219