Who can help me with tax advice?

Key takeaways

  • Tax practitioners have to be a member of an organisation recognised by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) as a controlling body.
  • Those organisations register tax practitioners with SARS which issues them with a tax practitioner number.
  • The controlling body must ensure that the practitioner has certain qualifications, has a clean criminal record, participates in ongoing learning and abides by a code of conduct.
  • The controlling body can discipline the practitioner if you or a SARS official complain.

If you need tax advice and help submitting your tax return to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) use a registered tax practitioner.

A registered tax practitioner is registered with a recognised professional organisation, meets certain criteria and has a tax practitioner number from SARS.

Your tax practitioner’s number should be included on your tax return when the practitioner submits it for you.

The Tax Administration Act sets out who may practice as a registered tax practitioner. It states that tax practitioners:

  • May not have been removed from a related profession, such as the accounting or financial planning profession, within the preceding five years; and
  • May not have been convicted of theft, fraud, forgery, perjury, corrupt activities or any other offence involving dishonesty which merited a sentence of more than two years without the option of a fine or a fine exceeding certain amounts.
  • Must be registered with an approved controlling body or organisation that ensures its members have:
    • The required minimum professional qualifications;
    • A certain amount to ongoing professional education;
    • Abide by a code of ethics;
    • Can be disciplined; and
    • Have their own tax affairs in order.

Tax practitioners who enter the profession after July 2022 are required to complete the SARS Readiness Programme to ensure they know their rights and obligations.

SARS officials can lay a complaint with a tax practitioner organisation if they find a tax practitioner:

  • Assisted a taxpayer to avoid or postpone complying with tax laws;
  • Caused a taxpayer to avoid or postpone complying with tax laws through their negligence; or
  • Contravened a rule or code of conduct for the profession.

CHECK ON YOUR TAX PRACTITIONER

If you want to check your practitioner is registered with SARS, ask for the practitioner’s registration number and look it up here.

If you want to check if your practitioner is registered with a tax practitioner controlling body, ask which one and check with the relevant organisation. Here is a list of the approved controlling bodies:

How does a tax practitioner access your return?

When you engage a tax practitioner, you need to give permission for them to access your eFiling profile or create one for you.

Ideally you should have shared access with your tax practitioner so you can see if they have filed a return for you.

You can also remove their access on eFiling should you not be satisfied with the practitioner’s service.  On the eFiling Home page look of User > Tax Types > Manage Tax Types.

You will see your returns and next to each under the “Action” column is “Select option”. If you have a practitioner, you can choose here to “Remove practitioner access”, “Remove shared access” or if your practitioner has not given you shared access “To have view only shared access”.

How do tax practitioners charge?

Most tax practitioners charge fees based on the complexity of your tax return and the time it takes to prepare and file it. 

If you earn income from a trade, business or rental property, you are likely to pay more than someone who earns only a salary.

A professional tax practitioner will not charge you based on the tax refund you will get.

Online practitioners

Some tax practitioners offer an online service and some offer a robo-advice service to assist you with submitting your tax return to SARS.

An online practitioner should still be registered as a practitioner with a controlling body and with SARS and you should be able to contact the human adviser submitting your return should you need to.

The online practitioner should provide a safe and secure system enabling you to upload your documents and you should agree to the practitioner acting on your behalf.

This service may be cheaper than consulting a practitioner in person, but this may also depend on the level of interaction by email or virtually with the human practitioner submitting your return.
 

What if I get audited?

A good tax practitioner will ask you for all the supporting documents required to file your return, so if SARS decides to audit you, the practitioner should be able to submit those supporting documents for you.

However, you should check if the fee for filing your return includes the practitioner also dealing with any subsequent audit.