Being audited by SARS? Don’t panic! Here’s what you need to know

Being audited by SARS? Dont panic! Heres what you need to know

– Chanel Raath (Director of Cornerstone Tax and Accounting Services)

You’ve done your civil duty and submitted your tax return correctly and in time and just as you sit back and wait for your much-anticipated tax refund – you get slapped with a SARS audit. The panic sets in and you start wondering what on earth you did wrong…

Relax. Although it can be inconvenient, a SARS audit isn’t nearly as scary or problematic as many people might think. At Cornerstone Tax and Accounting Services, we believe in sharing our decades of in-depth experience with our clients to give them piece of mind, knowing that all their tax and accounting needs are taken care of and to empower and prepare them for obstacles along the road.  With this ethos in mind, here are some facts about SARS audits that will come in handy if you or someone you know has been selected for an audit.

There is a difference between being verified and being audited

  • What is a SARS verification?

Verification is a face-value comparison between the amount shown in your ITR12 (your tax refund) and the documents that are used to determine this amount. In other words, a SARS verification checks if the amounts showed in your ITR12, match the amounts shown on your payslips, medical aid certificates, donations receipts etc. This is done mainly to ensure that the refund you receive is accurate and fair.

  • What is a SARS audit?

SARS defines an audit as an examination of the financial and accounting records and/or the supporting documents that you have submitted to determine whether you have correctly declared your tax position to SARS. To put it in layman’s terms: it’s to make sure that you are being truthful about your income and that any and all document you have submitted (payslips, Section 18 certificates etc.) are real and not forged or tampered with.

Audits are selected randomly and doesn’t necessarily mean you have done something wrong

Many people believe that being selected for an audit automatically means that they did something wrong or have been charged with a criminal activity, which is not the case at all. The truth is that SARS can randomly select any tax payer for an audit. Think of it as spot checks to ensure that your documents, information and income and tax paid are all correct and in the right place.

If you have been selected for an audit, you will be notified by SARS and they will advise on what the next steps will be. In many cases, you may have to submit additional documents or SARS will come and do a field audit. It’s advisable that you cooperate in a timeous manner to the best of your ability and do not ignore notifications or requests from SARS.

A dedicated SARS official’s contact details will be on the notification letter, so you can also phone them if you have any questions or concerns. Or, if you were smart enough to appoint a registered tax practitioner, they will be able to all the hard work for you. Click here to learn more about Cornerstone Tax and Accounting Services.

Be patient, it’s going to be a long wait

If you were selected for an audit, don’t expect it to be over in a flash. A SARS audit can take up to 90 business days to complete form the date all the necessary documents were received, assuming there are no other issues along the road.

Unfortunately, this means that your tax refund can be severely delayed as a result, because any refunds due to you will only be paid out once the audit has been finalised. SARS is considered one of the most efficient tax agencies in the world and will endeavour to finalise all audits and verifications as swiftly as possible, however it relies on your patience and cooperation to do so.

If you are still unsure why you were selected for an audit or if you have any questions regarding your personal or business tax and accounting, contact Cornerstone Tax and Accounting today to learn more about our bespoke and expert services.

Be sure to share this article with friends, family and colleagues and remember to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter for more interesting and useful content as well as tips and advice on how you can improve your financial wellness.

This article was adapted from “What if I’m audited or selected for verification?” published by SARS, last updated on 21 August 2019. The original article can be found by clicking here.


  • Pearl
    Good day What domyouncharge for your services I have been selected for audit on my August vat return
    • cornerstone
      Hi Pearl, Thank you for your question. Costs vary from client to client depending on their specific needs. We will send you and email shortly to explain in further detail. In the meantime, please send your contact number to Kind regards, The Cornerstone Team
    • R CHETTY
      good day i have done my tax return on the 30th October 2020 and still have not heard from SARS as i am on audit .i called the office and waited over an hour for them to answers their phones .
      • cornerstone
        Hi Pearl, Thank you for your comment. We will be in touch via email shortly to get more information on your case and see how we can assist. Kind regards The Cornerstone Team
  • Ryan
    How long does sars usually take to audit a previous year. SARS said the cant pay out my 2019 refund due to 2018 being audited Thanks
    • cornerstone
      Hi Ryan, thanks for your comment and question. Usually a SARS audit takes up to 21 working days, however each situation is different and when previous years are involved, it can take longer. We'll email you shortly just to get a better understanding of your current situation so that we can help out where we can. Kind regards, The Cornerstone Team
  • This is a topic which is near to my heart… Take care!
  • This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Excellent job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!
  • Anna
    Hello, the main director didn’t diregister the company and SARS wants us to submit the income and expenses from 2016. Can you help us
    • cornerstone
      Hi Anna, Thank you for your comment and question. We can most definitely assist, our director Chanel Raath will get in touch with you via email today. In the meantime, please send us your contact details and company information to Kind regards The Cornerstone Team
  • Cecilia
    How long does SARS usually take to audit a previous year. SARS said the cant pay out my 2020 refund due to 2019 being audited, its going for 5 months now.
    • cornerstone
      Hi Cecilia, Thank you for your comment. The answer to your question will be dependent on your specific profile and scenario. We will be in touch via email shortly to see how we can assist. Kind regards The Cornerstone Team

Leave a comment

Contact us
close slider

    If there’s anything you would like to discuss, please drop us a line and we’ll get back to you.