Tax residence for individuals

According to the South African Revenue Service (SARS), South Africa has a residence-based tax system, which means residents are, subject to certain exclusions, taxed on their worldwide income, irrespective of where their income was earned. By contrast, non-residents are taxed on their income from a South African source.

In an increasingly global society where individuals travel more freely across borders and are able to hold assets in various countries, it becomes important for individuals with ties to South Africa to have certainty whether they are a South African tax resident or not. If they are, their entire income earned from wherever in the world may potentially be taxed in South Africa.

Tax residence is not linked to migration status. In other words, irrespective of which country’s passport one carries, tax residence may still be established in South Africa by virtue of the domestic tests applied by the Income Tax Act.[1] In terms of that Act, an individual will be tax resident in South Africa if either that person meets the criteria of the “physical presence” test, or if that person is “ordinarily resident” in South Africa.

The physical presence test involves a day counting exercise whereby a person will be considered to be a South African tax resident if he/she has been present in the Republic for at least 91 days every year for 6 tax years, and that the days spent in the country in total over this period amounts to at least 915 days in total. If this test is met, the individual will be tax resident from the first day of the last year forming part of the 6-year period referred to.

The question whether a person is “ordinarily resident” in South Africa is a more involved one. The term as used in the Income Tax Act is undefined, but our courts have considered the term to refer to “… the country to which [an individual] would naturally and as a matter of course return from his [or her] wanderings”.[2] The test involves a facts-based and substantive inquiry that in essence involves a person being asked: Where do you consider home to be.

Tax residence is not only relevant for purposes of where a tax liability may arise, but also to understand what tax compliance related obligations may arise for an individual. It is therefore important for individuals not to confuse migration and tax residence status; the two rather have very little to do with one another.


[1] See the definition of “resident” in section 1 of the Income Tax Act, 58 of 1962

[2] Cohen v CIR 1946 AD 174

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)




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IC Marais

Professional experience:

IC Marais is a certified CA (SA) with public sector and private sector technical knowledge based on 5 years’ Public Sector accounting, auditing and financial management experience and 5 years audit, tax and accounting experience. Detailed knowledge of private and public sector accounting and auditing standards (GRAP, IPSAS, IFRS, IAS, ISA) and public sector financial legislation (MFMA, etc.)

He enjoys the outdoors, hunting and fishing.


Professional experience:

In 1995, Schalk started as a trainee at Warner and Newton (which became Moores Rowland in 1997 and then Mazars Moores Rowland in 2007) in Bloemfontein. In 1998, Schalk was appointed as manager at Moores Rowland, where he became a partner in 2003. Schalk received his Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Taxation in 2006 and in 2009 he received his Certificate in the Administration of Estates.


Professional experience:

Cedric started as a trainee at Warner and Newton (which became Moores Rowland in 1997 and Mazars Moores Rowland in 2007), Bloemfontein, in 1986. After completion of his articles, he joined the Special Investigations Division of the Department of Finance (SA Revenue Services) as a senior inspector from 1990 to 1991.


Professional experience:

Lucha started her career as a tax inspector at the Inland Revenue Department of New Zealand. After this she worked in commerce in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

On her return to South Africa, she completed her CA training contract with us and has been with Newtons ever since. She became a Partner in 2012.

Apart from her CA(SA) qualification she also holds a postgraduate certificate in Advanced Taxation (2005) and has the overall responsibility for training as our Training Officer.