Answer to a question from a reader

What I can do if I owe SARS money but am now unemployed?

The short answer

You can contact SARS and ask them to assist you.

The whole question

I submitted my tax returns and found out that I owe SARS money. How are you expected to pay them back if you are unemployed?

The long answer

If you are not sure how much money you owe them, you can contact them and ask for a statement of account. 

The important thing to note is that the tax debt won’t go away on its own, even if you are unemployed, and interest will accrue on any unpaid debt. If you ignore it, SARS can have you blacklisted or seize your assets and sell them to pay the debt.

The best thing to do is to contact SARS and ask them to help you work out a payment arrangement, as you are currently unemployed. 

They will provide you with the documentation you need to request a payment arrangement, which could be for deferred payment or payment in agreed instalments. They will only consider this request when any outstanding returns have been handed in. 

They do have the right to refuse a payment arrangement. On the other hand, they do encourage people to reach out to them and be open about their financial situation, so that they can strengthen the tax base.

If you don’t agree with the debt, you can declare a dispute with SARS under “Objections” and “Appeals”, but unless they agree to suspend the debt until the dispute is resolved, you are still required to pay the debt while the dispute is being handled.

Really, the best advice is to contact SARS and ask them to assist you, rather than leaving the debt to accrue interest. You can contact them at 0800 00 7277, where you will be asked to give your tax number and your ID number before any further discussions.

Answered on Sept. 11, 2020, 11:33 a.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.