Record keeping

A person must keep records, books of account or documents. The retention of records will assist a person to fulfil the requirements of the Tax Administration Act and to satisfy SARS that the person has complied with the requirements.

Who is it for?

Tax Administration Act requires the following persons to keep records:

  • A person who is registered and have filed a return
  • A person who is required to submit a return but have not complied
  • A person who is not required to submit a return, but have during the tax period, received income, have a capital gain or capital loss, or engaged in any activity that is subject to tax
  • A person who would have been obliged to submit a return if not for an exemption or threshold

How long the records must be kept?



A person who has submitted a return​

​Five years: counting from the date of submission of a return until the last day of the period.

​A person required to submit a return but has not complied.

​Five years: After the end of the five years period, indefinitely until the return is submitted.

A person who is not required to submit a return, but has during a tax period, received income, has a capital gain or loss or engaged in any other activity that is subject to tax or would be subject to tax but for the application of a threshold or exemption.​

​Five years or until the audit is concluded, whichever occurs first.

​A person who has lodged an objection or appeal against an assessment or decision under the TAA.

​Five years or until the disputed assessment or decision becomes final, whichever occurs first.

​A person who has been notified or is aware that the records are subject to an audit or investigation.

​Until the audit or the investigation is concluded.

How to keep records?

Records must be kept –

  • in their original form;
  • in an orderly fashion;
  • in a safe place; and
  • open for inspection, audit or investigation by SARS.

The records can be kept in an electronic form as prescribed by the Commissioner by public notice.

In the following instances you must request SARS for authorisation to deviate from the above-mentioned requirements:

  • Where records are to be kept in a different form; and/or
  • Where the electronic records are kept at a place physically located outside of South Africa.

In both instances a senior SARS official may, subject to conditions, in accordance with section 30(2) of Tax Administration Act, authorise such form if acceptable or authorise such location outside of South Africa, if acceptable. 

Where such authorisation is required, complete the application form and email it to [email protected].

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