As soon as tax season opens in July, many taxpayers rush to submit their ITR12 tax returns as early as possible, eagerly hoping for a nice refund. After the rush, when nothing happens, they often ask us what is happening to their refund? In most cases where an income tax refund is due to a taxpayer, SARS pays it out within one or two days. The latest Service Charter issued by SARS, which details the relationship between taxpayers and SARS, says refunds will be paid within 7 business days assuming everything is in order. However there are many instances when this does not happen, leaving people feeling unsure as to what is happening with their tax return and tax refund.
Let's talk through what happens after you have clicked that File button.
After an ITR12 (Income Tax Return) has been submitted to SARS, an ITA34 (Income Tax Assessment) document will immediately be issued and taxpayers will receive an SMS or email from SARS telling them that this is ready for their attention. If you receive no communication from SARS, return to SARS eFiling and login to view the Income Tax Working Page. Your correspondence will appear there, underneath your most recent tax return. The ITA34 document is a summary of all your incomes, expenses and deductions and shows the result of what SARS has calculated from the information you submitted. The result will either be tax payable to SARS, or if you are lucky, a refund.
Negative sign on my ITA34
A negative sign on the result of your ITA34 is a good thing, as this means a refund is due to you!
Audit: Yes / No
Scrolling down further there is a block which says Audit: Yes or Audit: No. If it says No then this means SARS will be able to process a refund immediately, all going to plan. If it says Yes, then wait for SARS to send a follow-up letter requesting supporting documentation. All this means is that SARS wants to check that the information and amounts you provided to them on the return matches the original documents used to complete the return. It is nothing to worry about if everything was entered correctly and truthfully. A new popup called Documents for review will appear on the Income Tax Working Page and this is where you must upload digital copies / scans of all the supporting documents required. A word of advice though, each one must be less than 5Mb. The total number of documents that can be uploaded cannot be more than 20.
Once the audit process is finished, SARS has 21 business days to issue a Letter of Completion and also generate a second, revised/additional ITA34 showing if the refund or amount owing has changed or stayed the same. Once the Letter arrives, expect the refund within 7 business days.
Outstanding returns / verify bank details
For taxpayers not selected for audit who are still waiting for their refund, this is often because SARS expects you to verify your banking details or you have outstanding returns from previous years. Sometimes they won't tell you this, but to check for outstanding returns, click on the Returns tab on SARS eFiling, then click SARS correspondence, Request Historic IT Notices and then view a Statement of Account, also known as an ITSA. Here you will see any outstanding returns. If you complete these old tax returns SARS can release your tax refund (as long as you haven't been charged penalties for late filing that is).
Still no communication from SARS?
With no outstanding returns, no request for supporting documents and no need to verify banking details, you can sit back and enjoy your refund. If you have had zero contact from SARS and none of the above solutions help you out, it is best to contact their help centre on 0800 00 7277. Tell them TaxTim sent you!
Remember: the only way you can get an income tax refund / "get tax back from SARS" is to complete and submit your tax return. Use TaxTim to make the process simple and get your maximum possible tax refund this tax season.