Sars reverts to old method for claiming school fees for special-needs children
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The South African Revenue Service says it has reverted to its 2012 method of calculating school fees for parents/guardians of disabled children at special-needs schools who want to claim school fees as disability expenses, after changing the criteria for the 2020/21 tax year. Parents of these children who have already submitted their tax returns will be accommodated by Sars if they request a correction to their returns.
The Commissioner of Sars regularly publishes a list of qualifying medical expenses that can be claimed by a taxpayer as a result of any physical impairment or disability suffered by the taxpayer or a dependant (disability list).
The disability list was updated after an extended public consultation process and published with effect from March 1, 2020. From the latter part of 2020, Sars noted public concerns regarding the change in the method of calculating the qualifying medical expenses relating to school fees.
It is for this reason, and “after much deliberation”, that Sars says it will revert to the method of calculating the qualifying medical expenses for school fees as set out in the 2012 disability list. This change will be effective retrospectively from March 1, 2020. Paragraphs 7 and 8 of Part F of the revised 2020 disability list now read as follows:
• Special education schools for learners with disabilities: qualifying expenses will include school assistant or classroom costs; and school fees limited to the amount in excess of the fees that would have been payable if the person attended the closest fee-paying public school not specialising in learners with special educational needs.
• Schools not specialising in learners with special educational needs: limited to additional expenses incurred and paid as a result of the disability.
The 2020 Disability List has been amended accordingly and was published on the SARS website on 29 October 2021. It can be accessed by clicking on this link.
Taxpayers who are affected by these changes are those whose disabled children attend a private special education needs school. Affected taxpayers who have already submitted a 2021 income tax return are requested to log into their eFiling profile or visit their local SARS branch office (by appointment only) to request for correction (RFC) or lodge an objection (you should only lodge an objection if the RFC option is not available).
These options will allow you to claim the additional benefit as outlined in the revised 2020 disability list.