Monday, 10 August 2015

Getting your South African Police Clearance from Overseas

Always fun trying to do something while you are in South Africa, much more fun trying to do it while you are outside of South Africa.  I'm posting this now to provide information and my experience so far.  I will edit it once I know the results, but at this point I have no clue if I even sent the application to the correct place!

The first bit of information you need is that you need to make the submission yourself.  You have to go to an approved centre for taking your fingerprints, the safest being you local South African Embassy and once the form is completed you need to send it yourself to the Criminal Records Centre yourself.  Of course, don't forget that once it is ready you need to arrange for it to be picked up.

I found quite a bit of conflicting information out there but it seems that the most recently updated and most reliable is the SAPS Website here. Here you can find SAPS bank information and that it costs R96 (I called up a local police office to check what the cost is, if you call the Police Clearance call centre all you get is a ringing telephone).  There is also an address to send the application to.  I was not able to confirm this address yet.

Once you have sent off the application keep track of the tracking number.  Once your parcel shows as received you will need to track you application here on the SAPS Site

At the time of publication the website shows the following information as correct.
First pay SAPS with the following information and print out the proof of payment
Bank Details for payment of R96
ABSA cheque account number 4054522787; Branch code 632005; Swift code ABSA ZAJJ). In the case of an electronic payment the initials and surname of the applicant should be indicated as the reference. The letters PCC must be added as reference, which will indicate that the payment is for a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC). 

Secondly download the form (called annex 23b form) and go to the South African Embassy and have them take your fingerprints and sign the form themselves.

Thirdly courier the form PLUS the proof of payment to the following address

The Courier address is
The Head of the South African Criminal Record Centre
(For attention: Police Clearance Certificates)
Bothongo Plaza West
CRC Client Service Centre
1st Floor, Room 14 
271 Frances Baard Street

Fourthly monitor the application progress here

Fifthly arrange a pre-paid courier to pick up the Police Clearance from the Criminal Records office.

Hopefully soon after all that trouble you will have yourself a wonderful No Criminal Records Police Clearance Certificate!

So the Police Clearance application arrived and it is now saying that it is ready.  All I have to do is arrange the courier pickup!
Just to note for those South Africans applying from overseas.  Your ID number is not your ID number, it is simply your date of birth.  Luckily I thought of trying that.  Otherwise I would still think the application was never completed!

Second update
Don't use DHL as your courier! They are rather unorganised. I had two Police Clearance certificates to pick up and gave them very clear and direct instructions to pick up both. I only found out they picked up one when it was delivered!  Then I had to complain to get them to pick up the second one, which they did at no extra cost.

So, as you may have gathered by now, I was successful in obtaining my police clearance certificate while overseas. It took the suggested time frame plus the time for the international couriers, all in all just under three weeks.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Top Tax Tip - Home Office Expenses

I just have finalised a long audit from SARS and it has been a long and difficult process.  Some where in the middle of it I have learnt a valuable lesson and I would like to share it with you.

As mentioned already you can claim a portion of all your home office expenses as tax deductible, however, as I have discovered, this is not always the preferable method.  The moment you claim for office expenses there is a lot of extra documentation that SARS requires.  You need to submit how large your house is, you need to submit how large your office is, you need to show proof of expenses and proof of payment, plus they automatically ask for bond statements etc. This can be really troublesome.

A much easier method is to simply claim it under Other Expenses.Of course you cannot put the whole house's electricity bill under other expenses, but if all you want to claim is your internet connection then definitely.

On top of having less paperwork to submit you can also claim the full amount.  It seems that SARS automatically assumes that any cost claimed under office expenses can only be 4% of the total.  Therefore don't claim your printing costs here, put it under Other Expenses.

Written by Mark Robson

Friday, 27 February 2015

Calculating my Provisional Tax for SARS

Here is another something I have stuggled with, trying to find some help and information about filing provisional tax in South Africa. It feels really complicated, but I'm sure that once I have the hang of it it should be really simple.  However as usual, it is one of those things that have very little help and information out there.  So, in honour of what I started this blog for let me document what I have learnt so far.

What is Provisional Tax?
Provisional Tax is for individuals who are earning a bit of income on the side or are self-employed.  This is how you declare to SARS your extra earnings from things such as Rentals, Sole Proprietor activities, etc.

What do you need to do?
It was easy to discover that you need to pay provisional tax at least twice a year.  The first deadline is 31 August and the second is 28 February of the following year (the end of the tax year).  In August you need to estimate your annual income, i.e. what you think you will have earned by the end of February, you type in the full estimated amount and then SARS will ask you to pay half of the estimated amount.  Before the end of February you can get a more accurate estimate of your full year profit and submit a more accurate figure.   These forms are called IRP6 forms. Then finally, once the tax year is finished you can do your final accounting for your business and complete the normal ITR12.

Trying to calculate your Taxable Income
This is where the information gets scarce.  What can be deducted as expenses for your business?  The short answer is "Everything that is an expense for your business". That is not helpful at all!  I already know that, but what I need to know, for example, is my domestic worker's salary a deductible expense?  The
Here is my list that I have managed to glean through a thorough search.

Medical Scheme Fees Tax Credit
Firstly you need to understand the Medical Fees Tax Credit.  I assumed that you could put your full Medical Scheme Fees here, but you can't.  This year (2014/2015 Tax Year) the amounts are R257 for yourself, Another R257 for the first Dependant that is also on your medical aid.  Finally an additional R172 for each Dependant thereafter.  You then claim this for each month you contribute to the scheme.  So for a family of three this will be R257 + R257 + R172, totaling R686 for each month.  If you were on the medical scheme for the full year you can claim R8 232.
You can get the latest figures for each Tax Year direct from SARS Website here.

Other Deductions

  • Internet costs (try to portion between personal and work)
  • Phone Costs (try to portion between personal and work)
  • Depreciation on your vehicle (You can depreciate it over 5 years)
  • Depreciation on your cellphone, desk, Computer (you can depreciate over 3 years)
  • Petrol for work as per your travel log
  • Vehicle Maintenance also divided up between work and personal as per your travel log
  • Cleaning Material
  • Cleaning Services (Pay your maid separately for this service so that there is a clear distinction)
  • If you have a home office you can claim the portion of electricity, bond interest and rates and taxes for your home office.  I calculated this using my office size (say 10 square meters) divided by my home size (say 200 square meters) giving me the percentage (this example gives 5%)
  • Pension / provident fund contributions.
  • Medical Expenses actually incurred such as medicine and doctors costs.
These are just some of the ideas I have found to make sure you get all those costs in there.  You don't want to pay SARS more than you have to, however it is important that you pay your taxes, it is your contribution to the privilege to do business in South Africa.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A not so new use for EverNote

I'm sure you've heard of EverNote.  Maybe you've even tried and maybe you even use it regularly.  I do, to me the main use it to search my notes.  In the past I was never able to find those notes from last weeks meeting that were so vitally important.

However I've found another use for it.  My filing system.  Just take a photo of your receipt, send / save it on EverNote and label it.  Not only can you search your label, but you can also search all the text in the photo i.e. the receipt!  I usually use the app on my mobile, tap the camera icon and snap a pic right inside the EverNote App.

I'm doing it this year for my tax return.  I'll let you know how easy it is to go through it all and put it into excel to add up all my expenses.

Just as a tip, create a separate notebook so that it is easier to search through at a later date.