South African Tax Body Updates Crypto Tax Guidance, Confusion Persists

In late August, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) released new guidelines that clarify the correct treatment of taxable crypto events. The new guidance, which was published on the revenue collector’s webpage, explains how cryptocurrency-related income should be disclosed in tax returns.

Distinction Between Income and Capital Gains Tax

As shown on SARS’ crypto-asset tax webpage, “income received or accrued from crypto assets transactions can be taxed on revenue account under ‘gross income.’” Alternatively, the new guidance says such gains “may be regarded as capital in nature, as spelt out in the Eighth Schedule to the Act for taxation under the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) paradigm.”

SARS also reveals that “taxpayers are also entitled to claim expenses associated with crypto assets accruals or receipts, provided such expenditure is incurred in the production of the taxpayer’s income and for purposes of trade.”

Meanwhile, a tax consulting firm, Tax Consulting SA, told to News in an email that the publication of the guidance should perhaps be best viewed in the context of the various comments recently made by SARS on the taxation of crypto assets.

As previously reported by News, South African crypto holders found on the wrong side of the law now face possible jail time. Similarly, Tax Consulting SA asserts that the new crypto asset tax guidance is another reminder of how SARS now sees crypto tax as an important revenue source and the extent to which it will go to enforce compliance.

The Cost of Not Disclosing

Consequently, in its analysis of the new guidance, the Tax Consulting SA team says “all individuals who have acquired and held crypto assets during the tax year must disclose these holdings to SARS in their returns, regardless of whether any taxable events took place.” The team cautions however that “this is easy to get wrong and taxpayers should be sure to tread carefully.” Tax Consulting SA also warned:

Where you do not make this disclosure, even negligently, this is now a criminal offence under the Tax Administration Act.

Concerning the “confusion” on whether a taxable event should be treated as income or capital gains tax, the consulting firm insists that the “information published [by SARS] earlier this week only gives examples of capital gains tax disclosures.” Also, since the revenue collector has not given examples of income tax disclosure, it “means taxpayers may fall on the wrong side of the law by just following the guidance provided by SARS.”

Yet, despite this lack of clarity, Tax Consulting SA insists crypto holders still have to disclose because “there is no legitimate way for crypto asset investors to remain ‘invisible’ from a SARS perspective.” The firm argues that “non-disclosure is permanent and [that this] will come back in a few years to catch up with the taxpayer.”

What are your views on SARS’ latest crypto tax guidance? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.