Understanding VAT Registration Requirements in South Africa

By | April 28, 2023

Value-added tax (VAT) is a tax on the consumption or use of goods and services. As a business owner, it is important to understand the VAT registration requirements to avoid penalties and legal issues. 

In this article, we will explain what VAT is, who needs to register for VAT in South Africa, the different types of VAT registration, the process for VAT registration, among other things.

What is VAT?

Value-added tax (VAT) is an indirect tax that is applied to goods and services consumed or used in South Africa. 

It is levied at each stage of production and distribution, from the manufacturer to the wholesaler to the retailer, until the final consumer purchases the product or service.

Who needs to register for VAT in South Africa?

Any person or business that carries on a taxable activity and makes taxable supplies exceeding the threshold set by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) must register for VAT.

Types of VAT registration

  1. Mandatory VAT registration

If your business makes taxable supplies that exceed the threshold set by SARS, you must register for VAT. This is known as mandatory VAT registration.

  1. Voluntary VAT registration

If your business makes taxable supplies below the threshold set by SARS, you may still register for VAT voluntarily. This can be advantageous if your customers are registered for VAT and can claim back the VAT you charge on your supplies.

  1. Exceptional VAT registration

If your business is not registered for VAT and it makes a taxable supply to a VAT-registered vendor, you may be required to register for VAT. This is known as exceptional VAT registration.

Thresholds for VAT Registration

The threshold for mandatory VAT registration is currently R1 million in taxable supplies in any consecutive 12-month period.

If your taxable supplies are less than R1 million, you may still register for VAT voluntarily.

Process for VAT Registration

  • Determine your VAT liability

The first step in the VAT registration process is to determine whether your business is liable for VAT registration. This involves calculating your taxable supplies over a consecutive 12-month period.

  • Gather required documents

To register for VAT, you will need to provide certain documents to SARS, including your business registration documents, proof of address, and bank statements.

  • Submit application for VAT registration

You can register for VAT online using SARS eFiling or by visiting a SARS branch office. Once you have submitted your application, SARS will review it and, if approved, will issue you with a VAT registration number.

VAT Payment and Returns

Once registered for VAT, you will be required to charge VAT on your taxable supplies and pay this to SARS on a regular basis. 

You will also need to submit VAT returns to SARS, which detail the VAT charged and paid over a certain period.

VAT returns are typically submitted on a bi-monthly basis, although businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million may be able to submit returns on a quarterly basis. 

The due date for submission and payment of VAT returns is the last day of the month following the end of the relevant period.

Penalties for non-compliance with VAT requirements

Failing to comply with VAT registration and payment requirements can result in penalties and interest being levied by SARS. These penalties can be significant and can include fines, interest on late payments, and even criminal prosecution in extreme cases.

Benefits of VAT registration

While VAT registration can be a complex process, there are several benefits to registering for VAT. These benefits include:

  • The ability to claim back VAT on goods and services purchased for business use
  • Increased credibility with customers and suppliers
  • The ability to compete with VAT-registered businesses
  • Improved cash flow management through accurate VAT accounting

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