SARS to Revamp the Tax Clearance Certificate Application Process

Author: Gugulethu Lushaba (Ernst & Young)

The South African Revenue Services (“SARS”) has that as from 4 May 2013, it will be doing away with the existing Tax Clearance Certificate (“TCC”) application process and introducing a new system, to be referred to as the Tax Compliance Status (“TCS”) system. As part of this new system, a single application template (TCR01) should replace all previous forms. A single consolidated form will cater for the various types of TCC’s that are applicable. This application template will have to be processed online, with the exception of a TCC required for emigration purposes (which will still need to be manually submitted to SARS together with the supporting documentation, due to the increased risk associated therewith).

One of the anticipated improvements of the new system is that of “real-time” processing, with the application outcome reflecting immediately in the form of a “pin”. The pin will attach to one of three indicators as follows:

  • Green indicator  – implies that the taxpayer has complied with all necessary requirements and the TCC request has been approved;
  • Red indicator – implies non-compliance and that the TCC request has been rejected; and
  • Blue indicator – implies that there is no history available for the taxpayer (this would typically occur for newly registered taxpayers who do not have any known default according to SARS’ system and will receive both a “green” status indicator and a “blue” status indicator).

Another significant difference with the new TCS system is that it will do away with “blanket” TCC’s that are valid for a fixed period of time (usually one year) and which may be presented to any business partner, as and when required during this period of time. Taxpayers will now be required to specify the purpose of the TCC application, detailing for instance the tender number, tender value (the values that the taxpayer is proposing and not the advertised value) and the duration of the tender. The pin provided on application will thus only be valid for that particular project being tendered for and for the period that has been specified (no longer automatically set at 12 months). In the event that the taxpayer requires an amendment to the period to which the TCC applies for (for example, where it has specified a tender duration period that is too short) the taxpayer will have to apply to SARS to extend the period, which should be approved provided the taxpayer remains compliant in all its tax affairs.

An anticipated challenge with the new TCS system that will need to be carefully managed by taxpayers, is that the status awarded on the processing of the application may change by the time a third party attempts to verify compliance. For example, the pin provided on initial processing of the application may reflect a green indicator, however, by the time the recipient (e.g. the tender board) verifies compliance with the use of that pin, the status may have changed to a red indicator. This could result from a filing requirement that has become due in the week following the initial application process which has then caused a default on the part of the taxpayer. This is a further measure that SARS is implementing to ensure that taxpayers remain compliant at all times.

Based on our discussions with SARS, it has confirmed that the policy governing the issue of TCC’s, as well as the laws governing this process, will not change. The only significant change relates to the system in terms of which TCC’s are applied for, processed and administered.