As we approach the end of August, millions of South Africans will log onto the SARS eFiling website or visit their closest branch to complete their tax returns.

“While this is a very busy time for the South African Revenue Service (SARS), it is also a very busy time for scammers,” says Manie van Schalkwyk, the CEO of the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS). “Over the past five years, the SAFPS has noticed a growing trend of tax scams which are targeting individuals who are desperate for cash.”

Van Schalkwyk warns the public against taking a SARS auto-assessment at face value.

“SARS is increasingly gravitating towards an auto-assessment system for qualifying taxpayers. This means that SARS has already done the tax return on behalf of the individual. They then either qualify for a rebate or pay money back to SARS,” says Van Schalkwyk.

While this is legitimate, he warns that scammers have also gotten on board with this trend. “Scammers are contacting taxpayers impersonating SARS. When targeted taxpayers log on to complete their auto-assessment, they are redirected to a proxy website where scammers will use the information they fill in on the form. The scammers will even produce a fake proof of payment document indicating that a rebate has been paid into the taxpayer’s bank account,” warns Van Schalkwyk.

SARS also warns the public of an additional scam perpetrated by scammers impersonating SARS officials.

Scammers are posing as SARS, luring taxpayers into a trap with an Outstanding Tax Payment notice. The notice, sent via email, replicates SARS’ logo and formatting and warns taxpayers that they will be unable to file their tax return for the 2024 tax season until they pay an outstanding amount attached to their tax profiles.

The scammers warn that failing to pay the amount by a specific date will result in fines, penalties, and potential assessments on a taxpayer’s affairs, which could result in conviction and prison time.

“As you can see, scammers are using sophisticated tactics,” warns Van Schalkwyk, who adds that before taxpayers act in a panic, they should contact SARS and clarify the situation with them before taking action.