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South Africa: Tax recovery by SARS on behalf of foreign governments

South Africa: Tax recovery by SARS

Section 185 of the Tax Administration Act No. 28 of 2011 sets out the steps to be followed by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to recover taxes on behalf of foreign governments via an international tax agreement (most commonly under an income tax treaty for the avoidance of double taxation).


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Such income tax treaties generally reflect an agreement between the revenue authorities of two tax jurisdictions to enable them to eliminate double taxation.

In order to submit a request to SARS, the foreign revenue authority must complete and submit a request. The request from the foreign revenue authority must be in the prescribed form and must include a formal certificate issued by the foreign revenue authority specifically stating:

  • The amount of tax due
  • Whether the liability for tax due is disputed in terms of the laws of the foreign country
  • If the liability for tax due is disputed, whether such a dispute has been entered solely to delay or frustrate collection of the alleged amount of tax due
  • Whether there is a risk of dissipation or concealment of assets by the person

Once SARS receives the request from the foreign revenue authority, it may either issue a request for conservancy or a request for collection. At this point, the taxpayer must acknowledge receipt of the letter issued by SARS; agree on whether to pay the taxes to SARS or directly to the foreign revenue authority; request that the taxes be paid in instalments; or must provide proof of payment to SARS. If the taxpayer fails to comply, SARS may recover the amount in the certificate for transmission to the foreign country as if it were a tax payable by the individual under a provision of South African tax law.

Read an April 2020 report [PDF 121 KB] prepared by the KPMG member firm in South Africa

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