As the old year comes to an end and a new one starts, South Africans have a unique opportunity to transfer more offshore than usual. This is because all South African citizens have transfer allowances that renew on 1 January every year. Here are some ways you can take advantage.

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South African citizens have two annual transfer allowances to use per calendar year. The Single Discretionary Allowance (SDA) allows you to transfer up to R1 million offshore without tax clearance from SARS. You can also apply for a foreign tax clearance certificate (FTCC) to transfer up to R10 million offshore.

Take your Rands out of SA if you’ve emigrated

If you’ve recently emigrated (in the current tax year), or you are still tax resident in South Africa, you can use your SDA and move up to R1 million a year – R2 million split across December and January – without needing SARS tax clearance.

See also: Financial emigration vs. becoming a non-resident for tax purposes: What’s the difference?

If you’re no longer tax resident in South Africa, or you wish to transfer over R1 million out of the country, you can apply for:

  • One tax clearance certificate now (to use before the end of 2021)
  • Another one in January 2022

That way, you can transfer up to R20 million (or R22 million if you still qualify for SDA) over two months. That’s R44 million as a couple, provided you still have your South African ID.

However, you will need to act fast to get your tax clearance certificate before the end of the year. SARS tends to operate at reduced staff through December, so it’s best to apply for your tax clearance before mid-November to be sure you get it in time.

We can help you apply for your tax clearance certificate.

Invest offshore

If you still have part of your investment allowance left at the end of the year, you should consider using the remainder to invest offshore.

The South African stock market represents less than 1% of the total world economy, so it makes sense to diversify your portfolio as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to hedge some of your wealth offshore in a stable currency.

However, South Africans are limited in where or how they can invest. Which solution is right for you will depend on your unique circumstances, so it’s worth speaking to a cross-border wealth adviser.

Send money to family overseas

This has been a particularly difficult year globally. If you have family or friends overseas who’ve been hit hard, you could use the remainder of your transfer allowance to send a little holiday spirit offshore, without impacting next year’s allowance.

South Africans have a gift allowance of R100,000 per calendar year with no donations tax implications.

Emigrating from South Africa in 2021? Use your family’s travel allowance

If you’re emigrating before the end of the year, you’re entitled to take up to R1 million offshore with you as a travel allowance (which will fall under your SDA). However, if you have children, you can take up to R200,000 extra per child, as children also have a travel allowance.

You will need to provide an air ticket originating in South Africa in the current year as proof.

Invest in property internationally or citizenship-by-investment

If you’re considering embarking on a citizenship-by-investment journey, you may well find that the required investment is more than a single year’s transfer allowance. Even if the investment itself falls within your transfer allowance, you don’t want to risk falling slightly short when it comes to fees and taxes. Now is a good time to move some of your wealth offshore in preparation, even if you haven’t yet decided where you wish to invest.

As a citizen currently living in South Africa, you’ll be able to make use of both your SDA and your foreign investment allowance, meaning you have R22 million to invest across December and January (provided you send R11 million before 31 December 2021).

In general, citizenship- or residency-by-investment programmes require the source of funds to be from one main applicant. If you and your spouse start moving money offshore into a shared bank account ahead of time, you can both contribute while avoiding additional paperwork.

Our investment migration team can provide advice and expertise in this area.

Monitor your allowances while on holiday

Now with borders reopening, you might be heading overseas for the holidays. If this is the case, be aware that credit and debit card purchases come off your SDA.

This means that if you’ve already transferred a large amount offshore this year, you might run into trouble. Don’t let the South African exchange controls ruin your vacation – make a note of how much you have to spend ahead of time, or plan your big spending for after 1 January.

Use it or lose it

A tax clearance certificate is valid for a year after it’s issued, but your allowance goes by calendar year. If you have a valid tax clearance certificate and haven’t transferred the full amount you’re cleared for yet, it’s best to take advantage now, as whatever you don’t transfer now will come off next year’s allowance.

For example, if you get a tax clearance certificate for R3 million in August 2021, but only use in February 2022, you only have R7 million left for 2022.

When you plan to move large amounts offshore, it can be tempting to wait for the currency exchange to be “just right”, but by trying to avoid currency risk you can inadvertently introduce the risk of waiting too long. If there’s a chance you’ll need to make large transfers next year, it’s worth using your current allowances now so you can avoid falling short next year.

You can get a new tax clearance certificate next year, but you won’t be able to get a new allowance and getting special dispensation from SARS to transfer more than your allowance offshore can be a painful process, so it’s better to take advantage of your 2021 allowance while you have it.


When you’re looking to transfer money out of South Africa, you deserve the best possible exchange rates, fees and personalised customer service.

Sable International’s forex division specialises in transfers of over R100,000 and can assist with discretionary allowance payments, gift payments, inheritances, study allowances, tax clearance applications and more at excellent, bank-beating exchange rates.

Get in touch on  +27 (0) 21 657 2153 or saforex@sableinternational.com.

We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you'll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.