Getting provisional tax right

2011-08-30 09:22

THE way that provisional tax works is that instead of the SA Revenue Service (Sars) waiting for you to file your tax return after the end of the tax year, it requires you to make an estimate half way through the tax year of what your taxable income will be, and then pay towards that. 

The benefits are supposed to be that taxpayers do not then end up getting a shock from one huge tax bill a year, and instead pay this in two smaller amounts - saving them cash flow strife. The benefit to Sars, though, is that it gets its hands on your money sooner.

A tax year runs from March 1 of the previous year to the last day of February of the year in question. So as an example, the 2011 tax year ran from March 1 2010 to February 28 2011. Thus the first provisional tax payment for the 2012 tax year is due right now, by August 31.

This essentially means that we need to calculate what is due for the whole 2012 tax year, and pay half of the tax liability on that amount now (with the balance due at the end of February 2012).

We calculate our first provisional tax payment (what is due by 31 August) like this:

Step 1: Calculate what actual income has been earned from 1 March 2011 to August 31 2011.

Step 2: Calculate what actual expenses/deductions have been incurred from March 1 to August 31.

Step 3: Estimate what income will be for September 1 2011 to February 29 2012.

Step 4: Estimate what expenses/deductions will be for September 1 2011 to February 29 2012.

Step 5: Add answer from Step 3 to answer from Step 1 - this will be your total/gross income for the year.

Step 6: Add answer from Step 4 to answer from Step 2 - this will be your total/gross deductions for the year.

Step 7: Subtract your answer from Step 6 from your answer from Step 5 - this will be your taxable income for the year (this is the number that your tax liability is calculated on).

Step 8: Calculate your tax for the year, using the following table:

Taxable income                        Rate of tax

0 - 150 000                      18% of taxable income

150 001 – 235 000            27 000 + 25% of taxable income above 150 000

235 001 – 325 000            48 250 + 30% of taxable income above 235 000

325 001 – 455 000            75 250 + 35% of taxable income above 325 000

455 001 – 580 000            120 750 + 38% of taxable income above 455 000

580 001 and above           168 250 + 40% of taxable income above 580 000

(For example, if your taxable income was R200 000 for the year, then your tax for the year would be R39 500. This is calculated by taking R27 000 and adding 25% of R50 000 - the amount above R150 000.)

Step 9: Subtract the annual rebate from your answer from Step 8. For this year (2012 tax year), the annual rebate is R10 755 (R16 767 if 65 or older, and R18 767 if 75 or older).

Step 10: Your answer from Step 9 is your tax liability for the whole year. Halve that, and this is how much you should pay as your first provisional tax payment by the end of August.

So, to give an example for clarity's sake, let's use John. Using the six months of the year already completed, John estimates that his total income for the year will R300 000, and his total expenses for the year will be R100 000. His taxable income for the year would thus be R200 000 (R300 000 - R100 000).

Using the table, John calculates that his tax for the year would be R39 500 (see example above). John is in his 30s, so his rebate is R10 755 for the year. He subtracts this from R39 500, to get a total estimated tax liability for the year of R28 745. He would thus pay half of this (R14 372.50) as his first provisional tax payment due by the end of August.

Now, regarding the estimates: you could be asking yourself "How the heck am I supposed to estimate what I'm going to make and spend in the next six months?" And that's a valid query. The point is, Sars doesn't expect you to know exactly either, so it allows for some variance. 

Basically, to avoid any penalties when you submit your second return at the end of February, you need to make sure that your estimate of taxable income is 90% or more of your actual taxable income once you've gone through the full year (this ratio is 80% if your taxable income is more than R1m a year).

This is imposed to stop people from underestimating for their first return in August (to pay as little as possible upfront). So in essence, to avoid being hit with penalties estimate your taxable income to be on the high side of what you think it's likely to be. (Just don't go too high, or you'll end up paying over more than necessary in August.)


When you're on eFiling, go to the Home tab. On the left hand side, you'll see User and a drop-down list.

Go to Tax Types, and it'll show whether you're registered for provisional tax or not. If not, you'll need to click on Provisional Tax (the return is an IRP6), and then register for it. Once you're registered, you'll be able to fill in your return (under the Returns tab) and submit it.

* Gareth Cotten is a finance coach and the course convener of the University of Cape Town Basics of Financial Management course. 

  • Mike - 2011-08-31 08:27

    I think that it is also important to note that you can opt to use the lower of the calculation above and the 'basic amount' from your previous assessment (plus 8% per annum) to calculate your payment at the end of August. This only applies if your taxable income will be less than R1m for the year.

  • David Rees - 2011-08-31 08:47

    Thank you, this is most helpful!

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