Tax on Foreign Earnings

National Treasury announced earlier on 2019 that it intends to change the provision in the tax law that exempts South African tax residents from paying tax on income from foreign employment.

At present, anyone who renders services outside of South Africa for more than 183 days in a 12-month period, including a continuous period of more than 60 days, will not be taxed in South Africa.

Under the new proposal, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) will only treat the first R1 million of these foreign earnings as exempt. Any income above that will be taxed in South Africa.

This amendment is expected to come into effect from March 1, 2020.

SARS has published an interpretation note that considers a number of factors that may demonstrate where someone is “ordinarily resident”. This includes where that person’s most “fixed and settled” place of residence is, where their assets are held, their nationality, and where they conduct business.
The interpretation note makes no reference to financial emigration. Obtaining approval from the South African Reserve Bank to financially emigrate does not automatically mean that you will automatically no longer be considered a tax resident.

Financial emigration is the process of changing your South African resident status with the Reserve Bank to that of a non-resident. The immediate benefit to South Africans is protecting themselves from certain local taxes and currency volatility and retirement savings and annuities can be withdrawn and transferred offshore, even if the person is under the age of 55. 

Based on the proposed amendments, if you have already paid tax in a foreign country you are eligible for a rebate, which will reduce their tax payable in South Africa by the amount you have already paid in foreign taxes. This will reduce the local tax payable, but will not make you exempt from paying it.

For further info access the SARS website and read Interpretation Notes 3, 4, 16 and 18 here.

This article is provided for information only and does not constitute the provision of professional advice of any kind.

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