The answer depends on your personal circumstances and may not be as straightforward as some people would have to believe. We have outlined the potential situations below so that you can be confident that you will be SARS compliant.

In general, you are required to submit a tax return if your income exceeds the tax threshold – subject to certain conditions and exemptions granted by SARS

The tax thresholds are as follows:

Year of assessment ending 28 February 2020

  • For individuals younger than 65: R79,000
  • For individuals 65 or older, but younger than 75: R122,300
  • For individuals 75 or older: R136,750

Year of assessment ending 28 February 2021

  • For individuals younger than 65: R83,100
  • For individuals 65 or older, but younger than 75: R128,650
  • For individuals 75 or older: R143,850

The various conditions and exemptions are different for

  • South African tax residents and
  • South African tax non-residents

South African tax residents

1. Those who do not need to file a tax return

If you are a South African tax resident you do not have to file a tax return (even if your gross
income exceeds the above tax thresholds) if your income consisted only of one or more of
the following categories of income:
 South African interest income (not from a tax-free investment) less than
 R23 800 for individuals 65 years or younger
 R34 500 for individuals 65 years or older; and/or
 Amounts received from a tax-free investment; and/or
 Up to R500 000 of gross salary income from only one employer and the employer
deducted tax.

2. Those who only need to file a tax return if their income is more than the tax threshold

If you are a South African tax resident you must file a tax return if your income is more than the tax threshold and one of the following applies:

  • You earned income from more than one employer or income source – you must file a return if you changed jobs during the tax year or had more than one employer or income source.
  • You have another source of income, such as interest, rental income or extra income from a side business.
  • You received a taxable allowance or advance from your employer (e.g. travel, subsistence, computer or cellular); or you had the right to use a motor vehicle supplied by your employer.

3. Those who need to file a tax return, irrespective of the amount they earned

If you are a South African tax resident you must file a tax return (irrespective of whether the amount of income earned is less or more than the tax threshold) if:

  • You carried on a business (not as an employee) in or outside of South Africa.
  • SARS sent you a tax return and requested that you complete it, irrespective of the gross income you received.
  • You sold assets and the capital gain or loss was more than R40 000 for the tax year.
  • You owned foreign currency or foreign assets and the total value was more than R225 000 at any time during the tax year.
  • You earned a foreign salary for work done as an employee outside of South Africa.
  • You earned income or capital gains from foreign currency or assets outside of South Africa that could be attributed to you as a result of making a donation, settlement or other disposition.

South African Non-residents

1. Those who do not need to file a tax return

If you are not a South African tax resident you do not have to file a tax return if you received dividends from a South African source and were a non-resident for the duration of the 2019 tax year.

2. Those who need to file a tax return

If you are not a South African tax resident you must file a tax return if:

  • You received interest from a South African source and
  • You were physically present in South Africa for longer than 183 days in total during the 12 months before the interest was received or accrued; or
  • The debt from which the interest is earned is connected to your permanent establishment in South Africa; or
  • You carried on a business (not as an employee) in South Africa; or
  • You sold assets and made capital gains or losses from the disposal of
  • South African fixed property or a right in fixed property; or
  • Shares in a company or a vested interest in a trust if at least 80% of the value of the interest is in South African fixed property and you hold at least 20% of the shares or rights of the company or trust; or
  • Capital assets effectively connected with your South African permanent establishment.