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How to submit an empty / nil return to SARS

Sometimes you have nothing to declare, but SARS wants to see your empty return

In some cases where a taxpayer was previously employed and receiving IRP5's, or has since moved overseas and no longer lives within South Africa, it may be assumed that there is no need to submit a tax return to SARS. Essentially the return would have no information on it, it would be empty, so why bother?

Completing and submitting your tax return every year is actually an essential task, and here's why:

  1. By submitting your tax return you will remain tax compliant and up-to-date in the eyes of SARS, and there will be no chance of being penalised for late submission which can be very costly;
  2. Without a tax clearance certificate, you can't borrow money from a bank for a home, car or other purchase. SARS won't issue a tax clearance certificate unless you are fully up-to-date with your tax returns and able to show a full and complete history of submissions year after year.
  3. Sending money outside South Africa or wanting to emigrate needs a tax clearance certificate which again can only be issued if fully tax compliant.
  4. In a later year if you are due a refund, SARS won't issue the refund until all previous returns have been submitted.
Even if no income is declared, for compliance purposes it is necessary to submit a nil return. If using SARS eFiling, indicate on the ITR12 wizard that you were unemployed and click No to all the visible options (see below image). Then submit your return to SARS. In this way you stay compliant and keep up to date with SARS.

How to submit a nil return on eFiling