Good record-keeping is key

The words tax, tax man, Receiver and SARS are known to strike fear into the hearts of many an entrepreneur. This is not only because it implies that you have to part with your money, but because the tax process can be a daunting one. A good place to start when getting your taxes in order is by keeping accurate records.

As a business-owner, it's crucial that you keep records that will help you to prepare complete and accurate tax returns. It's up to you to choose an accounting or bookkeeping system suited to your business and that complies with regulations.

If your company's financial administration is in arrears or it's just not your area of expertise, it's probably better to get a professional tax consultant to get you up to date and to make sure all your taxes are paid up. It's worth spending the extra money.

Your financial records

To put it simply, your financial records reflect your company's income and expenses. Together with these records, you must also keep all other documentation (such as receipts, invoices, cancelled cheques, deposit slips, etc) that support the entries in your records and tax returns. These "supporting documents" are very important, so file them in a logical order and store them in a safe place.

You'll need the following records:

  • Those showing the assets, liabilities, undrawn profits, revaluation of fixed assets and various loans
  • A register of fixed assets
  • Detailed daily records of cash receipts and payments reflecting the nature of transactions and names of the parties involved (except for cash sales)
  • Detailed records of credit purchases (goods and services) and sales reflecting the nature of transactions and the names of the parties involved
  • Statements of annual stocktaking and supporting vouchers

NB: If you're operating both your personal and business banking from the same account, it's best to open a separate account for your business, to enable proper record-keeping and tax filing.

No "cooking the books"

Keeping accurate and up to date records are essential for keeping track of money coming in and money going out of your business. At tax time, they are also important to:

  • Identify nature of receipt. This is to show whether anything you received of a revenue nature or capital nature
  • Avoid omitting deductible expenses. Do so by recording your expenses as soon as they are incurred, you won't forget to include them in your tax return
  • Establish amounts paid out as salaries or wages. Under normal circumstances amounts paid to employees for services rendered are taxable in the hands of the employees. In these cases employees' tax must be deducted from salaries or wages by the person paying such salaries or wages.
  • Explain items reported. If your income tax return is examined by SARS, you may be asked to explain certain items, which will be simple if you've kept complete records and their supporting documents.

Get a professional

A company is required by law to appoint an auditor who will audit and sign an audit report relating to its financial statements. A CC must appoint an accounting officer. Normally, the auditor or accounting officer will help to determine the taxable income and the amount of tax to be paid. In the end, it's also a lot easier for a professional to do it.

Keeping all your documents

You are required to keep your books and records, as SARS can ask to examine them at any time, should something not add up or seem suspicious. Retention periods in terms of the Companies Act are:

For Companies:



1. Certificate of incorporation


2. Certificate of change of name (if any)


3. Memorandum and articles of association


4. Certificate to commence business (if any)


5. Minute book, CM25, CM26 and resolutions passed at general/class meetings


6. Proxy forms

3 years

7. Proxy forms used at Court convened meetings 3 years

3 years

8. Register of allotments after a person ceased to be a member (section 111)

15 years

9. Registration of members

15 years

10. Index of members

15 years

11. Registers of mortgages, debentures and fixed assets

15 years

12. Register of directors' shareholdings

15 years

13. Register of directors and certain officers

15 years

14. Directors attendance register

15 years

15. Branch register

15 years

16. Annual financial statements including annual accounts, Directors' report and an Auditors' report

15 years

17. Books of account recording information required by the Act

15 years

18. Supporting schedules to books of account and ancillary books of account

15 years

Record keeping for Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax purposes

As a taxpayer, you are required to keep records such as ledgers, cash books, data in electronic form, all supporting documents and any records relating to capital gains or capital losses for a period of five years from the date on which the tax assessment for that year was received by SARS.

However, if objections and appeals have been lodged against assessments, you should keep all relevant records and information until the objection or appeal has been finalised, even if it takes longer than five years to sort out.

Appoint a Representative Taxpayer

Every company which conducts business or has an office in South Africa must, within one month of commencing operations or buying an office, for the purposes of section 101 of the Income Tax Act, appoint a representative as the Public Officer of the company.

The name of the representative and his position must be given for approval to the SARS office for the district in which the company has its registered office.

The representative must be a responsible officer of the company (for example, director, manager, senior member, secretary, etc.) and such position must constantly be kept filled by the company.

It is also advisable (although not a requirement of the Act) that a sole proprietor or partner of a business appoints a representative taxpayer such as an accountant to deal with his/her tax affairs.

Accurate and up to date record-keeping is not only about making life easier when you file your taxes. It can also protect your business's cash flow and enable to run a tight ship. Failure to pay your taxes is not only illegal, but it can lead to the closure of your business. Is that really worth it?

For more information on this and updates on tax legislation, visit the SARS website at

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