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How long does it take SARS to pay out my tax refund

By Daniel Baines – Tax Consultant at Mazars and author of ‘How to Get a SARS Refund' - Oct 4, 2018
How long does it take SARS to pay out my tax refund

You may be wondering why your refund from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has not yet been paid out. This article explains the process behind refunds being paid out and how long you can expect to wait.

The first step in obtaining your refund is to file your tax return. Once this has been done a number of things can happen:

1. Your return is not selected for audit/verification
This is the ideal situation. SARS has accepted what is submitted on your tax return and they consider your return to be finalised. If you fall in this category you can expect your refund to pay out within 7 to 21 working days.

Please note, however, that your refund does not always get paid out within this time period. Reasons for this are discussed below.

2. Your return is selected for verification
This is very common; SARS will ask you to submit supporting documents to verify what you have claimed in your tax return.

Common examples of supporting documents requested include a retirement annuity certificate, medical aid certificate and travel logbook.

Once these supporting documents have been submitted, SARS has 21 working days to validate them. In other words, if they are happy with your documents, they should finalise your return within 21 working days. Once your return has been finalised, your refund should be paid out within the 7 to 21 working days as discussed above.

There is the possibility that SARS wishes to know more information upon seeing your submitted documents. This will then take you into an audit. This is discussed below.

3. Your return is selected for audit
This can happen in one of two ways:

a) After submitting your return SARS selects you for an audit; or
b) You submit supporting documents, as discussed above, and then SARS selects you for an audit.

An audit is an in depth look at certain aspects of your tax return. They may ask you for further supporting documents or an explanation of why you have claimed a certain expense on your return.

Unfortunately there is no time limit on an audit and SARS may continue to ask you questions until they are satisfied. Once they are satisfied and have finalised your return, the same 7 to 21 working days as above applies.

Reasons for non-payment of refund after return is finalised

If SARS has finalised your return, 21 working days have passed and your refund has still not been paid out, the following are common reasons for the delay:

1. Your banking details are invalid; or
2. SARS have placed a special ‘stopper’ on your account.

If SARS have placed a special stopper on your account, they may wish that you validate your banking details or may want to know why you have overpaid provisional tax. This will need to be dealt with before SARS will pay out your refund.

We have also had circumstances where SARS have not paid out a taxpayer’s refund even though none of the above is applicable and everything is in order.

When this happens we are forced to lodge a complaint with SARS and if this does not work to approach the Tax Ombud with a request for SARS to pay out the refund. This avenue generally does work, although it does take some time.

Mazars Port Elizabeth is here to help you should you require any assistance in completing your tax return or dealing with a SARS audit. For enquiries, please contact our Tax team at PLZ.TaxConsulting@mazars.co.za

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