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What's the difference between a desk and a field audit?

by , 26 June 2014
There's a lot of confusion regarding SARS audits.

For instance, some business owners think there are no differences between a desk and a field audit. This could not be further from the truth.

The good news is today our tax experts will set the record straight. So continue reading to find out the difference between a desk and a field audit.

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The difference between a desk and a field audit explained

What you need to know about a desk audit: SARS conducts a desk audit in its offices.

When it comes to this audit, the auditor verifies your tax returns, annual financial statements and other support documents you've submitted, says the Practical Tax Loose Leaf Service.

Orpsys.com, a company involved in the business consulting industry, rightly puts it when it says, 'desk audits are done as a determinant of accuracy of data.'

Note: SARS can ask you for more information once the desk audit is complete.

What's more… SARS could also ask you to come to its offices for an interview following a desk audit. But it can only do this if the interview:

  • Will clarify issues of concern; and
  • Isn't conducted as a criminal investigation.


Now that you know all about a desk, let's take a look at a field audit.

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Here's what you must know about a field audit

A field audit is an audit of your records. SARS conducts this audit in your premises.

It's usually specific to a certain tax type, for example, employees' tax.

When it comes to a field audit, SARS must give you an authorisation letter for the audit. It must also give you at least 10 business days to get all relevant material ready. The notice must:

  • State the date and time of the audit (it must be within normal working hours); and
  • Indicate the initial basis and scope of the audit.

Important: If the scope and basis of the audit or investigation isn't clear, write to SARS and ask for more clarity. Ask SARS if the investigation is criminal in nature and under which provisions of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) you're required to allow the field audit.

There you have it. Knowing the difference between a desk and a field audit will bring you a step closer to understanding how SARS audits work.



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