They say nothing’s certain in life, but death and taxes. But there’s no reason why you can’t get savvier with your tax returns and apply savings towards a cushy retirement or other smart investments. We’ll help you better understand your tax liability, ways to reduce your tax bill, and how to save tax-efficiently in a retirement annuity.
Who has to pay tax and who has to tell SARS more about it?
We know how it goes: you start your first job, your company kindly deducts your tax and UIF, and you’re left with, well, what you’re left with. No one ever takes you aside to explain how tax works or the control you can have over it.
First off, let’s look at who has to pay tax.
For the 2018 year of assessment, you have to pay tax if:
- You earn more than R75 750 a year and you’re younger than 65 years.
- You’re 65 years of age or older – the tax threshold (the amount above which income tax becomes payable) is R117 300, while for those over 75, the threshold is R131 150.
You don’t have to file a tax return…
If your total salary for the year before tax does not exceed R350 000, provided that:
- You only have one employer. Remember that if you have two employers or income sources (i.e. late spouse/partner pension income, exam markings income, rental income, moonlighting income etc.) you do need to file, even if the total is still under R350 000.
- You have no car allowance or other income ¬– such as interest or rent, for example.
- You are not claiming tax-related deductions like medical expenses, retirement annuity contributions, travel expenses, etc.
- You received interest from a source in South Africa not exceeding:
- R23 800 if you are below the age of 65 years, or
- R34 500 if you aged 65 years or older.
- Dividends were paid to you and you were a non-resident during the year of assessment.
Benefits of filing a tax return
Here’s a clue: tax refund.
Even if you don’t have to file a return, it’s still a good idea to do so in order to maintain a complete tax record, to obtain a tax clearance certificate should you want to take out a mortgage, and to access your retirement fund one day.
What’s more, you could be due a refund. Depending on your situation, something like working two jobs can trigger a tax refund.
Bringing down your tax burden
While you can’t evade tax, there are some ways you can lessen your income tax liability. For example:
- Donations: Support a worthy cause like a local animal shelter. You can donate up to 10% of your taxable income to public benefit organisations (PBOs) and claim a tax deduction on this donation, provided these PBOs are registered with SARS and issue a valid tax certificate for all donations received.
- Medical Scheme Fees Tax Credit (MTC): A fixed monthly amount, which increases according to the number of dependants you have. For the 2017/2018 tax year, you can deduct:
- R303 per month if you are the taxpayer paying the medical scheme contributions
- R303 per month for the first dependant
- R204 per month for each additional dependant
- (Indirectly) invest in a local start-up: If you want to back smaller, higher-risk trading companies, you can do so by investing in a venture capital company (VCC). Individual investors are entitled to deduct the full amount of their investment from their taxable income in the tax year. The tax relief is 41% for individuals.
- Tax-free savings: To encourage South Africans to be better savers, SARS allows taxpayers to save a maximum of R33 000 per year and R500 000 in your lifetime tax-free. These amounts have to be saved in a specially designated fund/account without having to pay any tax on capital gains or on the interest or dividends received on these investments.
- Pension, provident funds and retirement annuities: If you contribute towards your retirement in one of these savings vehicles, you may deduct up to 27.5% of your gross remuneration or taxable income (whichever is higher) in respect of your total contributions to a pension, provident or RA fund, subject to an annual limit of R350 000.