What’s up with SARS and tax clearance certificates?

What’s up with SARS and tax clearance certificates?

I have written about this before but the issue has come to the fore again when I recently applied for a tax clearance certificate for offshore investing on behalf of a client.

On the face of it, exchange control legislation has all but fallen away with the announcement by National Treasury that individual investors can take R4million offshore each year. But it seems that someone at Treasury forgot to tell SARS that it is ok for people to take money offshore.

In my experience, it is just about impossible to get a tax clearance from SARS at the moment. The number of hoops that need to be jumped through seem to change quite regularly, they lose the application form, they have different “standard” processing times and then tend to decline the certificate on minor technicalities (it seems that at this stage SARS require a prospective investor to have the amount they intend investing actually sitting in their bank account).

So while exchange controls might officially have been relaxed by National Treasury it seems that another government department is making it almost impossible to get official permission to take the money offshore. The result of this is that people will eventually give up on the the “right thing” and will find other ways to take money offshore again. But is that not the reason we needed a whole big amnesty a while back?

Surely someone at Treasury needs to speak to someone at SARS and find out why they are being so difficult with the tax clearance process? The result of SARS’ approach will be increased non-compliance in the future (especially if we see the rand weaken again suddenly).