Can You Claim Tax Returns For Previous Years?

By Craig Will •  Updated: 02/04/24 •  4 min read

This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to claim your tax returns for the previous tax year.

Can you claim tax returns for previous years?

Yes, it is possible to claim tax returns for previous years from SARS.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) does allow taxpayers to submit a tax return for previous years if they have not done so already, and SARS itself has not assessed them for previous years.

The process of claiming tax returns for a previous year is identical to that of filing regular tax returns.

Taxpayers are urged to complete the relevant tax return forms and submit them to SARS via channels such as eFiling, alongside the required supporting documents.

It is important for taxpayers to take note of the fact that there is a limit to when one can claim a refund.

 In most cases, it is 3 years from the date that the assessment was issued, the expiration of which will disqualify you from claiming again.

Taxpayers who earn under R350 000 for a full financial year from a single employer prior to tax deductions.

And who have no other sources of income outside of their employee salary, such as rental incomes, as well as no deductions they wish to claim, aren’t obliged to submit a return.

Should a taxpayer be unsure of whether they have to submit a tax return to SARS, they can contact the call centre with their inquiry at 0800 00 7277.

Should it come to light that you can claim tax returns for previous financial years, said task can be accomplished on the SARS eFiling website at www.sarsefiling.co.za.

Can you get a refund for previous tax years?

It is possible to obtain a refund for a previous year’s tax returns with the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

In the event that you may have miscalculated and overpaid your taxes, or you find yourself in an unlikely situation where you have paid taxes on an amount that has decreased with time.

Should this be the case, you can request a refund by completing the relevant tax return for the relevant year, alongside any of the necessary supporting documents to support your claim.

One should take note that the process of getting a refund for previous tax years may be subject to a long waiting period, alongside possible deadlines for submissions.

One should also keep in mind that a refund for a previous year’s tax returns will only be successful should said tax return be submitted within a given timeframe.

In most cases, that deadline is 5 years from the date of assessment.

How many years back can you claim tax?

The given time-frame for which a tax claim is still valid from the date of assessment in South Africa and with SARS is generally 5 years.

Should you be under the impression that you have overpaid your taxes or paid an amount that has subsequently decreased since the assessment date.

You are permitted to submit an amended tax return prior to 5 years elapsing from the date on which the assessment was made.

Taxpayers should take note of the fact that this 5-year period is the maximum timeframe in which you can submit a refund claim.

This, however, does not guarantee a refund within that 5-year timeframe. Instead, a refund is only valid should you meet SARS eligibility criteria for a payout.

Can you write off something from the previous year?

It is possible to write off something from the previous year with SARS.

For example, should you have a valid business expense incurred in a previous tax year, and it was not claimed in the original tax return.

Should this be the case, then you can request to have it written off by submitting an amended tax return for that year.

In order to write off something for a previous tax year, you will have to submit an amended tax return for that year alongside the necessary supporting documents.

It is important to note that not all expenses can be written off, and whether it can be is contingent on the type of expense as well as to whether it meets SARS’s eligibility criterion in that field.

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