SARS is levying admin penalties on taxpayers' accounts, regardless of whether they meet the criteria for filing a tax return or not. The following steps can help you safeguard yourself if you are affected.

An Admin Penalty is a penalty imposed under Section 210 of the Tax Administration Act (TAA). The Act prescribes the different types of offences for which administrative penalties are assessed. Taxpayers who fail to file and pay their tax returns on time are levied interest for late filing or failure to file.

This year alone, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) imposed penalties totalling R381 million on 690 000 taxpayers for late returns.

Some taxpayers who have left South Africa are receiving this penalty notice or SMS even though they might not be required to actually lodge these returns. You as a taxpayer have the right to request a waiver on reasonable grounds within 30 working days of the notice being issued. Here’s what you can do:

Request a penalty waiver from SARS

SARS has previously stated that taxpayers who earn less than a certain threshold - currently R500 000 - and receive only income from which Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax was deducted are exempt from filing returns. This has resulted in many people believing they do not need to file but being penalised for failing to do so.

To cover your bases, file your returns to demonstrate that you do not owe any tax and then request a remission of the penalties.

A Request for Remission (RFR) can be submitted when a taxpayer disputes any penalty levied due to non-compliance. You can do this by navigating to the penalty statement via your SARS e-Filing account.

Please note however that SARS will force you to fix the default even if they are incorrect in demanding it.

You can dispute the penalty by stating one of the following reasons:

  1. I am not liable to file – I have lodged the return requested and I had no income to deduct so as such, no return was required.
  2. Other – I have lodged the outstanding return as requested, the amount is under R2000 and this was my first offence.
  3. Alternatively, any similar type of argument (as allowed above).

If you have moved out of South Africa and have an eFiling account, consider taking the following steps to avoid issues like this from affecting you in the future:

1. Formalise tax emigration from South Africa with SARS

You are not automatically classified as a non-tax resident when you leave South Africa. In the event that you do not formally declare yourself as a tax non-resident, SARS will automatically classify you as a South African tax resident.

If you are tax resident in South Africa, you are legally required to submit tax returns to SARS every year unless you earn below certain thresholds, which can be found on SARS’s website. All earnings, local and foreign, must be declared, and any exemptions or tax credits on foreign earnings must be claimed. Even if you are living overseas, you can be taxed on foreign remuneration that exceeds a R1.25 million threshold.

If you have tax emigrated, ensure that you have received your letter from SARS confirming this.

SARS only started issuing these letters around January 2022.

If you completed your tax emigration before 1 January 2022 and you do not hold a confirmation letter from SARS, it’s possible that you’re still assumed to be a tax resident in South Africa or that SARS has cancelled your previous application without telling you.

Speak to one of our expert advisers about your tax residency status.

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2. Deactivate your South African tax number

If you no longer require your SA tax number, we recommend that you deactivate it to avoid future complications.

Once you have completed your final tax return for your South African-sourced income and received your non-residency letter from SARS, you should deactivate your South African tax number. This tells SARS that you no longer have any taxable assets or income streams from South Africa, and do not expect any in the foreseeable future, and therefore do not need to file a tax return until something changes.

3. What to do in case of an active South African tax number

If you do need an active tax number, it is advisable for you to continue to file your annual tax return for the foreseeable future until SARS updates their systems, which can take a minimum of 18 months. This is to prevent future admin penalties that you would have to challenge as stated above.

We continue to use all available channels to urge SARS to correct the error without taxpayer intervention.


Still not confident doing it yourself? Our South African tax practitioners can assist and correspond with South African Revenue Service (SARS) on your behalf. Get in touch with us at or give us a call on +27 (0) 21 657 1517




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