The first mention of William Shakespeare in London has nothing to do with his plays. In fact, a reference from 1592 lists him as a tax defaulter. Seven years later, when he was famously composing plays the world knows and loves, Shakespeare had still not paid the tax! In South Africa, this would definitely trigger an audit for your business from SARS. But don't panic if you're facing this fate, as you have certain rights that will help you survive a SARS audit.
A new art exhibition in London is set to expose William Shakespeare as more than just a playwright – he was also a landlord and tax-dodger and received quite a few fines for tax evasion, says TheTelegraph
Three common SARS audit triggers to avoid…
If you fail to pay over your taxes or even to submit your tax returns on time, SARS will label you as a possible tax evader too, which means you'll be almost guaranteed of a SARS audit.
But it doesn't have to be an intentional act that triggers SARS' attention – making a simple error when filling out your tax return will also make you the subject of a SARS audit.
That said, you shouldn't worry that this means you'll have to grant SARS access to everything when it shows up unannounced on your premises for a tax audit.
Because under the Tax Administration Act or TAA, you DO have certain rights in a SARS audit.
Do you know your SARS audit rights?
Firstly, SARS can't show up unannounced for the audit.
It must first send you what's known as a 'Letter of Engagement'.
This letter must inform your company what SARS would like to audit – for example, it could be your Vat returns or the tax returns of your employees for the past three years.
Here's what to do if SARS issues a Letter of Engagement to show it wants to audit your business
Once SARS lets you know in writing that it'll be conducting an audit of your premises, you'll need to draft a letter in return.
If the Letter of Engagement hasn't been specific, you're entitled to ask for more information.
You can say you'd like to know and understand the scope and purpose of the audit to ensure the appropriate resources are allocated to attend to the SARS audit, says The Practical Tax Loose Leaf.
This way, you can make sure you have all the financial records at hand that SARS will be auditing so make sure you're keeping all financial records for at LEAST the five year minimum.
Because even when you think you're in the all-clear as SARS has performed an audit or paid you your refund as SARS could still ask more questions in future, explains The Practical Tax Loose Leaf.
So keep all your financial records to avoid being labelled as a 'tax evader' like William Shakespeare.