Taxpayers may require SARS to issue them with a tax clearance certificate for various reasons. This includes a general confirmation that the relevant taxpayer’s affairs are all in order and up to date (a so-called “Good Standing” tax clearance certificate), or a certificate being required to participate in certain government tenders.
Perhaps most notably in recent times, natural person taxpayers are also requesting “FIA” tax clearance certificates, being tax clearance certificates issued to taxpayers who intend to utilise their R10m annual foreign investment allowances to transfer funds abroad for investment purposes. The South African Reserve Bank (through its authorised dealers (most commercial banks)) will not grant approval for transfer of funds in this manner without confirmation from SARS in the form of a FIA certificate being issued that the individual’s tax affairs are all up to date and in order.
Many do not realise that the issuing of tax clearance certificates is a process specifically regulated by the Tax Administration Act. Any tax clearance certificate must be requested in the prescribed form and manner by a taxpayer or his/her representative. A tax clearance certificate must be issued in the prescribed format and include at least the original date of issue of the tax compliance status confirmation to the taxpayer, the name, taxpayer number and ID number (or company registration number) of the taxpayer.
After receipt of an application in the prescribed form, SARS must either issue or decline to issue the tax clearance certificate requested within 21 business days, or such longer period as may reasonably be required if a senior SARS official is satisfied that the confirmation of the taxpayer’s tax compliance status may prejudice the efficient and effective collection of revenue.
In practice, SARS often takes well in excess of the 21 business days in which to issue tax clearance certificates, especially for purposes of Foreign Investment Allowance applications. In terms of the Tax Administration Act, SARS may not take longer than the 21 days to process such an application, unless there is some form of proof that tax collections may be jeopardised if the certificate is issued (and which will rarely be the case). Where such delays are experienced though, taxpayers are in practice left with very few remedies, which are conceivably limited to either approaching the Tax Ombud (whose recommendations are not binding), the Public Protector or the High Court for an order forcing SARS to make a decision on issuing a certificate. Most taxpayers will therefore, sadly, simply have to endure SARS’ delays in processing tax clearance certificate applications.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other 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 financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)