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Why does SARS / TaxTim say my supporting document is password protected when it isn't?

Some PDF files have hidden passwords - here's how to remove them

Why is this happening?

You may be using TaxTim to submit your tax return and receive an email back from us saying that your supporting document upload was rejected by SARS due to password protection.

You may also be using SARS eFiling directly and wonder why an error message says "the document can not be converted".

You might be confused because the PDF has no password-protection, or none that you can see when you open up the PDF document in Adobe.

This error occurs most often with IT3b's, bank statements and Retirement Annuity Fund PDFs supplied by certain funds or banks. The technology they use to produce the PDFs has encrypted the document and inserted a password, but it is a hidden password - you won't be able to see it or be asked to enter it.

How to solve the problem

Make use of an online service to remove the hidden password.
Options include Smallpdf or Soda PDF.
Upload the locked PDF, convert it to unlocked, then download the unlocked copy.
Upload the unlocked copy to TaxTim / SARS eFiling instead of the original.
Remember these are third-party services so you are trusting your private information with them when you use their services.

Print the PDF and scan it into your computer again as an image file (JPG) or a new PDF.
Upload this new file to TaxTim / SARS eFiling instead of the original.

How to check you have unlocked your doc successfully

Open up your PDF in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click on File -> Properties, then the Security tab.
You should see that the Security Method no longer says "Password Security".

Posted 5 July 2018