SDK Chartered Accountants's Monthly Newsletter

Forward email


SARS and Understatement Penalties 

SARS imposes an understatement penalty on a taxpayer who under declares their taxable income on their provisional tax returns in relation to the actual tax income on their annual income tax return for the same tax year.

As we are currently in second Provisional Tax submission season it is vitally important to ensure that your estimated income for the 2018 tax year is within the acceptable parameters set out by the Income Tax Act.

Disputing understatement penalties

In recent years, SARS has become less inclined to allow the waiver of the understatement penalties that it imposes on the taxpayer. This has even become more difficult following a recent court case (details of court case included below – courtesy of Pieter van der Zwan & Associates), where the court actually increased the understatement penalties that were imposed on the taxpayer.

What can you do to avoid understatement penalties?

Ensure that your estimated income for the 2018 tax year is within the requirements determined by SARS. 

When you receive your IRP6 return, check that the income is inline and contact SDK’s tax department for any queries or amendments.

Tax Developments on one page – Pieter van der Zwan & Associates

The Tax Administration Act (TAA) requires SARS to impose an understatement penalty (USP) in the event of an understatement. A recent tax court case (IT14247) dealt with the question whether SARS was entitled to impose such penalties in circumstances where a taxpayer had already made payment and the appropriate rate at which the USP had to be imposed. 

Background facts:

The following relevant facts appear from the judgment. The taxpayer carried on an advisory business from which it earned fees. It submitted nil income tax returns for a number of years of assessment during which it had earned fees. In addition, it charged VAT on the fees without being registered as a VAT vendor or rendering any VAT returns. The taxpayer did however make provisional tax payments amounting to approximately R13,7 million to SARS in respect of its 2011 to 2013 years of assessment. 

SARS raised assessments in respect of the income that the taxpayer did not declare and the returns not submitted. It imposed a 100% USP in respect of the tax. This was subsequently reduced to 25% in respect of income tax and 50% in respect of VAT. 

The taxpayer disputed the imposition of the USP on the basis that there was no prejudice to the SARS or the fiscus as it had made to above provisional tax payments, which presumably covered the tax due. 

Principles and judgment:

When an understatement occurs SARS is required to impose an USP on the shortfall at the highest applicable percentage in terms of the table in s 223(1) of the TAA. The first issue considered by the court was whether an understatement occurred.

 An understatement is defined as “any prejudice to SARS or the fiscus as a result of…a default in rendering a return…[or] an omission from a return”. Nkosi-Thomas AJ held the view that despite the fact that the taxpayer had made payments to SARS, these funds were not at the disposal of the fiscus for purposes of funding government expenditure as it was still credited to the taxpayer. The fiscus was prejudiced and an understatement existed. 

The court confirmed that the USP would be imposed on the shortfall that existed between the tax properly chargeable and the tax that would have been chargeable had the understatement been accepted. As nil returns and/or no returns were submitted, the tax chargeable if the understatements were accepted would arguably be nil. The full amount of the tax properly chargeable would therefore constitute the shortfall. This would be the case despite the fact that the taxpayer had made provisional tax payments. 

Lastly, the court was required to consider the appropriateness of the rates at which the USP were imposed. In this regard, SARS argued that the USP imposed were quite lenient and requested the court to revise the amounts. Section 129(3) of the TAA allows the tax court to reduce, confirm or increase the USP amount. In this case, the judge held the view that the taxpayer’s actions of submitting nil returns or no returns departed so radically from what a reasonable person would do that it amounted to gross negligence. In light of this, the USP amounts were increased to 100%. Taxpayers should take note of s 129(3) and be aware of the fact that disputing USP may in some cases result in an increased amount of USP. This is a consideration to be borne in mind when deciding whether to dispute USP or not. (November 2017)

Follow the link to Pieter van der Zwan & Associates :


We say goodbye to Stephan Swanepoel, audit manager, who is leaving to pursue a career in Ireland.

We wish him all of the best and thank him for his hard work.



February 2018 NEWSLETTER
Stop the World I Want To Get Off
Our lives seem to become more stressful every day, and the barrage of “urgent” emails and Social Media messages that we are subjected to certainly doesn't help.

Why do we feel compelled to check our emails so often?  What happens if we train ourselves to reduce the number of times we look at our emails to say three times a day? How does that affect us personally? How does it impact on our productivity and on our interactions with colleagues?

Read on for the answers…
read more

Allowable Stock Deductions: Hopefully Less Tax, Less Admin
ArticleImage Let’s join CEO George and his Finance Director James as they discuss a recent tax court decision on the question of valuing stock for tax purposes.

For years, this has been a bone of contention with SARS, leading to endless work, debate and argument.

Hopefully this new judgment will bring an end to all that, and clarity on which approach SARS must adopt. With luck, both less tax and less administration time are in the offing for business.
read more

Taxpayers: Why YOU Should Participate in this Local Survey by SAICA
ArticleImage We face mounting pressure to devote more and more of our busy lives (and more and more of our budgets!) to complying with all our tax obligations.

The good news is that, whether you are individual taxpayer, an SME, or a large corporate, you have a chance to be heard

Take part now in SAICA’s new survey to determine the time and costs involved in tax compliance.  The more statistically valid data SAICA has, the more successfully it can lobby government!
read more

Submit Your Budget 2018 Tips!
ArticleImage Budget 2018 will be one of the most important since 1994, and the threat of substantial tax increases looms large.

Don’t miss this chance to submit your suggestions to the Minister of Finance before he makes his Budget Speech on Wednesday 21 February. 

Share your thoughts and ideas with the Minister – he does read your tips and usually mentions some of them in his Speech.
read more

Your Tax Deadlines for February (and How to Avoid Penalties)
ArticleImage Provisional taxpayers:  28 February is your deadline to estimate your total taxable income for the 2018 tax year, and to make your second provisional payment to SARS.

Don’t get this wrong! The penalties for inaccurate estimates are severe, and applying for them to be remitted will embroil you in a dispute process which is likely to be both lengthy and cumbersome.

Here’s how accurate you have to be with your estimates…
read more


The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© DotNews.  All Rights Reserved.

  A Client Connection Service by DotNews