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Hurry Up and Then Wait for Your Tax Refund

Monday, September 25th, 2017

SARS distributed a media release last week including the statement that “SARS has an obligation to both taxpayers as well as to the fiscus to ensure that fraudulent and invalid claims are stopped.” They have asked South Africans to be patient this tax season and not expect tax refunds to be paid out immediately. The reason for the delay is as a result of additional risk assessment processes being implemented. They also stated that they are fully aware of the taxpayer’s expectation with regards to refunds but that processes needs to be concluded prior to the pay out of refunds.

Last year we saw the implementation of special stoppers which resulted in many delays. SARS’ reasoning behind the implementation of special stoppers was to add security screening in order to combat fraudulent claims. This year additional fields have been added to your personal income tax return which SARS will use to verify expenses against third parties. (For example travel, medical and retirement annuity contributions).

The 2017 Tax Season is now open and individual taxpayers will be able to submit their returns for the tax year ended 28 February 2017. The South African Revenue Service (“SARS”) has published the deadlines for the submission of Income Tax returns. The deadlines are dependent on the manner of submission of the return. These deadlines are not applicable to companies who are required to submit their returns within 12 months of their financial year end via e-Filing.

The Income Tax Act has been amended to impose administrative penalties for non-compliance. These penalties can vary from R250 to R16 000 per month. Kindly ensure that you have all the supporting documentation for your return as SARS could request this if you are selected for a review. Safeguard supporting documentation for at least five years in case SARS needs access to them in future.

Do you require assistance?

To assist with the compilation and submission of your income tax return, your tax adviser will require information such as:

  • Your banking details.
  • Your IRP5/IT3(a) certificate(s) which you will receive from your employer or pension fund.

Where applicable:

  • Certificate from Medical Aid as well as a summary of additional medical expenses, not covered by your medical aid and diagnosis of disability (ITR-DD), if applicable.
  • Pension and retirement annuity certificate(s).
  • Travel logbook (if you receive a travel allowance).
  • Tax certificates that you received in respect of investment income (IT3).
  • Financial statements, e.g. business income (where applicable).
  • Any other documentation relating to income you have received or deductions you want to claim.
  • Information relating to capital gain transactions.

What’s The Difference in Activities and Outcomes?

Monday, September 25th, 2017

In past articles I have droned on and on about Funder’s wanting to see Outcomes and how important Outcomes are. But I know from experience and conversations with government agencies and non-profit organizations that many people struggle to understand the difference in Outcomes and Activities. So, here are a few clues to knowing the difference so that you can identify and use Outcomes when seeking or justifying funding and doing reporting.

Your Outcome may be someone else’s Activity. The Outcomes you need to produce depend on where your organization/program fits into the continuum of the big picture. When you rely on funding from outside your organization or agency, you fall somewhere in the continuum of the mission/program of the funding provider. This also applies if you are a department within an agency or government entity. Think of it as an assembly line. Your station on the line is somewhere in the middle. Here is an illustration: Your station’s purpose is to take a raw material (such as corn), modify it (cut the corn off the cob), then pass it on to another station to conduct another function (cook it). The end product will be creamed corn in a can. The work of your station on the line is vital to the end result. To the big picture your station conducts an Activity; for your station, you have produced an Outcome.

Don’t assume your Activities are what matters. On the assembly line where your station produces corn cut from the cob, you will likely be expected to produce a specific amount of cut corn. In the big picture your station is not measured by the number of cobs you process, how fast you cut the corn or how quickly you process each cob. Also, in the big picture it does not matter how long it takes for your machine to warm up or how many times you have to stop the machine and clear out a blockage. Your station is measured on how much cut corn gets to the next step on the assembly line. Stated differently: you are measured on the amount your station contributes to the end product.

With this assembly line (continuum) picture in mind, here are some points to help you differentiate between Activities and Outcomes for your agency/organization within the desired Outcome of the Funder. Following are some typical Activities that people often mistake for Outcomes:

  • Actions you tally – Information sessions, classes, mentoring sessions, speeches, counseling sessions, forms completed
  • Inputs your provide – Staff, volunteers, money, place, trainers, tests, counselors, food
  • Outputs you count – Participants, attendees, graduates, program completers, certifications, qualifications, parents counseled
  • Resources you obtain – Materials for students, Childcare for career training attendees, mobile classroom, counseling services

Outcomes are what you produce depending on where you fall in the continuum – In reporting and in seeking funding, you must explain how your product helps accomplish the outcome(s) of the funder or partnership. Here are some examples:

  • Middle Schoolers ready to enter high school – demonstrate how you know they are ready to enter high school and move on toward graduating and obtaining a job with family sustaining wages
  • Nutritional meals for Seniors that help increase their overall health
  • Program participants that are ready to fill and sustain positions in health care, manufacturing, logistics, etc. that provide family sustaining wages
  • Healthier families because you provided food on weekends to elementary school children, health screenings for seniors, free medical clinic
  • Decreased children in poverty because you have facilitated the outcome of more people employed with family sustaining wages

I have attempted to provide you some explanation and examples so that you can be better prepared to determine your own Outcomes and differentiate them from Activities. However, Outcomes are very personal to an organization/agency and where it fits into the big picture. One of the best pieces of advice I can provide is to get outside input. People within an organization or agency are so busy doing the work that it is difficult for them to step back far enough to see the other parts of the continuum. Outside scrutiny can help with this. Outside help can come from many sources, here are a few: Funder (donor, grantor, government agency, etc.), education (university institute, interns, students in an appropriate, professors, etc.), consultant, board, volunteer, other organizations/agencies and even the funding provider.