I often find myself thinking back to school and university, where my days were filled with learning. In both cases there were subject you HAD TO take whether you liked them or not. I think about these subjects and despite being able to recognise that they were a valuable core base to my education, I wonder why practical life admin skills wasn’t a compulsory subject.
Once you exit schooling and enter the “real world”, you are faced with adult decisions and not everyone is blessed with experience, mentors or parents that can guide them through making the correct choices and doing the right things.
Joining medical Aids, buying cars, paying debt, taking out loans, saving money – what are the do’s and don’ts?
And what about taxes?
I’ve always found Taxes to be an intimidating, complicated and time consuming “task” and quite frankly never know if I’m doing it right. If you work for a full time employer, most likely they are paying taxes on your behalf, but if you earn over R350,000 a year you have to file a tax return yearly, and if you earn less, you still should.
I learnt this sometime during the last 10 years of my employment history and most years I remembered to file via the SARS eFiling website at the very last minute. Every time, without fail, the experience was tedious and scary. The worst part for me (aside for having no guidance on how to fill in things correctly) was how the pdf viewer never seems to work on the computer I’m using, even with me repeatedly downloading the latest adobe reader. It was the opposite of user-friendly.
This year I have been trying to get on top of life admin. After my father unexpectedly passed away in February, I have felt a sense of responsibility to do things the right and best way, so I can emulate the guiding force he was to my mother, my siblings and I. On top of my personal motivation, a huge reason Nutreats exists is to provide useful and helpful information to our readers. If I struggle with life admin, chances are I’m not alone.
When tax season rolled around, I decided the first area I should tackle is taxes and I set out to find a service to help simplify the tax return. I found TaxTim and from the minute I entered their website, I knew I had stumbled on a winner.
TaxTim is a digital tax assistant service that was started by Marc Sevitz and Evan Robinson in 2011. The idea was born when Evan, after being unable to fill in his tax return without stress and frustration, enlisted the help of his tax fundi friend Marc. Marc was able to help him quickly and easily and Evan thought replicating Marc’s brain in a machine to help other people too, would be a great idea. Evidently Google agreed and with seed funding TaxTim was created. By late 2014 they had integrated directly with SARS to allow for one click direct submissions and to date they have helped over 1.3 million South Africans with their taxes and launched in Namibia too.
Their aim is to help both individuals and small companies submit tax returns quickly and easily. They say “TaxTim is built for absolutely everyone and zero tax knowledge is required to use it”. With a tax return not yet filed, it was the perfect time to put it through the test. How does it work? Is it as easy as they say? Is it worthwhile paying money for something you can essentially do by yourself?
I jumped straight in by clicking the register button on the top right-hand side of their website. With just 3 fields to fill out, I was on my way in no time.
After registering they ask you if you want to receive sms notifications when tax season opens and closes. I love this because I usually find these things out by chance, at the last minute. Once you provide your number and hit continue (or opt to skip), you are introduced to Tim, who guides you through the entire process.
The following questions are designed to help TaxTim tell you what type of tax return you need to fill out and what package you need to choose. They ask you which taxes you want to be reminded about, what type of tax return you need to submit (individual, provisional or company) and what year you are filing for. They can assist with backdated tax returns you’ve missed as well.
You’re then given options to customise your return to you and once you’ve clicked the relevant boxes it tells you what package you need.
TaxTim Packages and Pricing
For individuals, TaxTim offers 3 packages and the amount you pay is determined by how many sections you need to fill out. All their fees are once off, meaning you pay per return, not monthly.
Lite is or individuals submitting a basic return (5 sections) with no medical aid, retirement, allowances or other income costs R284.
Smart allows for 15 sections (medical aid, retirements investments etc.). Important to note is that they ask you which sections are relevant to you, as shown above, and once you’re going through the process they don’t ask you questions related to the items you did not select. Smart costs R389 once off.
Comprehensive is for commission, independent contractors, sole prop, rental/ foreign income earners. It consists of 22 section and costs R599 once off.
They also offer a 15% discount for first time users if you pay upfront (at the start of your return), meaning the R389 for smart, becomes R330.
Their company offerings include;
Provisional tax: R49 for individual 1RP6, and R99 for Company IRP6
Company Tax returns: R1199 for micro business (under R1 million turnover) and R1799 for small business (R1-R4 million turnover).
Once you’ve paid (by credit card, EFT or voucher) you’re ready to begin and they first ask you if you’d like to import your IRP5.
The next step is where it got tricky for me. They ask you if you have a SARS profile and if yes you are prompted to login (using SSL so it is secure) – you do this directly on the TaxTim website, seeing as they are integrated but because I could not remember my username and password (literally happens every single year). I had to go onto the SARS eFiling website to first reset my password. Once I got through this hurdle it was (almost) smooth sailing.
I was incredibly impressed by the speed of the integration. Within a minute I was onto the next screen question. They ask you if you want to import your IRP5 and once it’s done they ask you to review the info. Once done, you are then guided through a series of questions that make up each section on your tax return.
TaxTim tries to make each step incredibly easy – they never ask you more than one question at a time. Once you answer, the next question pops up and the previous questions of that section fall below in a greyed out thread (like is a whatsapp text conversation). At any time you can click one of the questions in that thread to change your answer if need be.
Every now and again, useful messages pop up in green to let you know that;
a: Your work is saved automatically after each step, meaning you can always start now, log off and come back later. If you were doing this on the SARS site, logging off means having to start again. And;
b: You can go back at any time by scrolling down your page to make a different selection.
Despite checking the “Ok, I understand” box, I didn’t quite grasp this, so when I answered a question incorrectly later on – and only realised it in the follow up questions, instead of selecting no for each follow up question, I could’ve and should’ve just gone back to the original question to change my answer. Ultimately it didn’t matter, but more on that later.
Another feature I really enjoyed was the red exclamation mark they show on certain questions. This is shown when documentation is required and by clicking on the triangle it explains what SARS might want from you.
They also make sure to link text to answers. For example, when they spoke about qualifying medical expenses, the green highlighted text links to an explanation.
After the medical section it took me through each section of the tax return in exactly the same way. I breezed through the retirement annuity fund, unemployment periods, and IRP5 deductions sections quickly.
Once I got to tax free savings, I realised I had a question from the previous medical section.
Each question has a help button next to it which you can utilise if you don’t understand anything. If they don’t have auto answers or an answer that matches your query, it links to TaxTim’s helpdesk. When you submit your question, they let you know what hours they operate and what time frame you can expect a response in.
I submit a question at 5pm and expect an answer the next day. Minutes later, at 5.02pm I receive a response and when I immediately follow up with more questions, I get responses all the way to 5.27pm – my last question & answer. The answers are all laid out concisely and help me through my problem.
Their website is also stacked with useful information. Both the FAQ & Blog section have so much educational content that you can make use of whether you’re using TaxTim or not. It’s an amazing resource to understand taxes more. They also allow you to submit Tax questions whether you are registered or not. They charge R50 for non-registered members. For registered members it is free.
During this question answer time, the website logs me out.
I decide to shut down for the day and start looking for records of medical expenses and savings so I can go back into those sections. Trying to review my entire year was an enlightening experience – I learned a lot about organising personal admin or rather my lack thereof.
When I log back in the next day, it welcomes me back at the point I left but also allows me to start a different return if I needed to.
It takes me a few minutes to revise my answers and finish up. Once done, TaxTim lets me know I’m ready to submit and asks me if I’d like to file with TaxTim or myself. I’m not quite sure why someone would want to do it themselves at this stage.
I choose to file with TaxTim and review my return. They allow you to edit any information during the review stage.
I hit submit at 3.55pm.
By 3.56pm I get an email telling me to fix two errors in my return and attach a document. They explain exactly what is showing up as an error and why. This takes me back to the mistake I made earlier on, and I have the aha moment where I realise what I had done wrong. As I said, it ultimately did not matter because TaxTim clearly has an efficient enough review process to pick up and flag errors prior to submission.
I correct the errors, reply to the ticket, and by 4.41 pm I get an email to say my return is filed. At 6.46pm I get another email to say that SARS has sent an assessment. TaxTim summarises the assessment, explains it and copies the actual assessment text into the email for me to reference.
My overall impressions on TaxTim
- It took me less than 3 hours from start to finish and I can say a good 2 hours, if not more of that time, was me looking for information due my lack of organisation.
- It’s set out very clearly. I love how its broken down into small bites to avoid overwhelming you.
- I love how you can log out at any time and come back to the same point without having waisted time.
- I love how its editable when you forget things.
- I love that the help button works, and responses are incredibly quick and enthusiastic.
- I love the red exclamation mark and linked text that explains questions as you go along.
- I love all the information freely available on their website. It is a highly educational experience, and I recommend you browse their topics even if you’ve filed already or don’t think you’d need to use TaxTim’s services.
It’s quite rare that I test out a product or service without having at least one negative/con/pain point. The entire process was enjoyable, and I was beyond impressed with the service. It actually made filing a Tax Return fun (dare I say it) and their “quick and easy” tag line is not just a claim. I also feel that their pricing structure is affordable and even if you can do it yourself via sarsefiling, paying R284-R599 a year is a worthwhile expense when it’s removing frustration and giving you peace of mind.
More importantly, I felt I had a professional alongside me for guidance. Once my tax return was done and submitted I got a sense that I had just experienced what Evan had the day the idea was hatched. “What if I could put Marc’s brain in a machine, then put it online, so that everyone could have their very own affordable tax man to help them?”. 7 years later the mission statement is certainly still delivering.