Tax season starts today (eep!) and chances are most of us don’t have a potting clue how to do our own income tax return. Luckily the clever sausages over at TaxTim have come to the party and put together a handy dandy list of tax tips you absolutely need to know. From how to declare your travel allowance to how to claim for medical expenses TaxTim is here with 10 top tips on how to do your taxes.

TaxTim is South Africa’s first alternative to SARS eFiling – the online digital tax assistant helps you to complete and submit your own tax returns quickly, easily and with confidence and replaces confusing forms and blue blocks with a simple conversation with a friendly face. There are loads of benefits to using TaxTim including maximising your potential tax refund by finding tax deductions you never knew about, avoiding compliance problems and SARS penalties, and avoiding triggering a SARS audit by taking a chance but the best part of all is there are no obligations or sign ups – you simply decide when you want to use TaxTim and pay the once-off annual fee to use the service. In the mean time check out their top tax tips below.

1. Don’t be a travelling vagabond 

If you are receiving a travel allowance from your employer, then make sure to have kept an accurate vehicle log book if you want to declare it on your tax return. Keep copies in case SARS asks you for proof of business travel and related expenses. (they can ask 5 years later!).

2. Buying and selling property

If you bought your home before 1 October 2001 and you sold it this year, then be sure to have the valuation certificate available in case SARS asks for it. This valuation will be used as part of the base cost to determine the Capital Gains Tax paid on the sale of the property. Without it you’ll be in trouble!

3. Getting a little on the side

If you earned income from a side business, including renting out property, then remember to keep records of all the income and business-related expenses. These will be included in the “Local Business” section of your income tax return.

4. Check and then double check

When completing your tax return, be very careful with the information you are including. Double check that all information is correct against any documents that you have. SARS can penalise for errors they call, “failure to take due care” in completing one’s return. The penalties can be up to 50% or even 100% of the tax effect of the error in some cases. Ouch!

5. Insist on an IRP5

Insist that your employer provides you with your IRP5 so you can compare this to the one submitted to SARS and visible on eFiling. Your IRP5 describes your employment income and deductions as well as the PAYE tax already paid. Employers have 2 months from May to submit these to SARS and should begin giving them to employees at the beginning of June. If you don’t have it by July, you have a right to demand it.

6. Keep your records up to date

Make sure the banking details that SARS has of yours are up-to-date. If they are not then you will need to go into a SARS office and change these. You will not get paid your refund (if due) without doing this.

7. Claim for wear and tear

Do you use a personal computer or cell phone for work purposes? You can write off a portion of the value of this item over a set number of years, and this amount qualifies as a tax deduction, reducing the tax you need to pay. If the cost was less than R7 000 then you can write off the full value in one go. Get your employer to write a letter confirming you are allowed to use these assets for work. See this Wear and Tear calculator on the TaxTim website to work out your wear and tear.

8. Make medical expenses count

If you had any medical expenses such as prescription medicine or doctor’s visits, in the case that no medical aid paid you back for these purchases, then you can add up all the amounts spent and declare these on your return to reduce your tax due.

9. Don’t forget about passive income

Don’t forget about income you may have earned passively such as interest, dividends or capital gains you may have made. Be sure to get your tax certificates – known as IT3b’s and IT3c’s – from your bank or investment house so you can declare the income on your tax return.

10. Download the documents you need

Paid toward a Medical Aid but don’t have your certificate yet? You should have had these sent to you in May by post or email, but if you didn’t get them you can either phone your medical scheme and they will send it through, or most providers have a self-service online portal that you can sign into and download your certificate. See a list of portals here.

TaxTim was founded in 2011 and so far has helped over 1.3 million South Africans to make tax easy. Click here to check out the site and get started on your taxes today.