Can A Sole Proprietor Register For VAT In South Africa?

Value-added tax (VAT) is an important consideration for all businesses in South Africa, including sole proprietors. VAT is assessed on the value added to products and services at each stage of the supply chain. The current VAT rate in South Africa is 15%. While VAT registration is compulsory for businesses that meet certain thresholds, many sole proprietors wonder if VAT registration is required or even allowed for their small businesses.

This article will examine the requirements, processes, and implications of VAT registration for sole proprietors in South Africa.

What is a Sole Proprietor?

A sole proprietor is an individual who owns an unincorporated business by themselves. They have unlimited personal liability for all debts and obligations related to the business. Sole proprietors report business income or losses on their tax returns and do not have a separate business entity structure like a company or partnership. Many small businesses with only one owner choose to operate as sole proprietors due to the simplicity of set-up and compliance.

VAT Registration Requirements for Sole Proprietors

To register for VAT in South Africa, certain requirements must be met:

Tax Status

The first requirement is that the sole proprietor must be registered as a taxpayer with SARS (South African Revenue Service) and be tax compliant. You’ll need your tax number to complete the VAT registration application.

Turnover Threshold

There is a compulsory VAT company registration threshold. SARS requires that sole proprietors register for VAT if their total taxable supplies over the past 12-month period have exceeded R1 million. However, a sole proprietor can also voluntarily register for VAT even if their turnover exceeds the compulsory registration threshold.

Once registered, VAT sole proprietors must charge VAT on taxable goods or services and submit regular VAT returns to SARS. There are many implications, compliance obligations, and cash flow considerations, so the decision should not be taken lightly.

How Can a Sole Proprietor Register for VAT?

If a sole proprietor meets the VAT registration requirements and decides to register, here is a step-by-step process to do so:

Step 1) Ensure Tax Compliance

Before starting your VAT registration application, confirm with SARS that all outstanding taxes have been paid and that you have a tax clearance certificate authorizing your good standing. Review outstanding tax returns and pay any taxes owed.

Step 2) Gather Supporting Documentation

SARS will request supporting documents to accompany the VAT registration application form VAT101. Make sure to have the following documents ready:

  • Copy of your South African ID book or passport & proof of residence
  • Business permit or license, if applicable
  • Bank confirmation letter verifying business bank account details
  • Proof or statement of your taxable supplies over the past 12 months

Step 3) Complete VAT101 Application Form

Access the VAT Registration Application Form VAT101 online from the SARS website. Complete all required fields with your personal identifying details like name, trade name, ID number, address, bank details, estimated taxable supplies, and the date you intend to become VAT registered.

Step 4) Proofread & Submit to SARS

Double-check that the VAT101 form is error-free and all supporting documents are included before submitting it to SARS via email or in person at a SARS branch. Consider having an accountant review it before sending it.

Step 5) Wait for the VAT Registration Certificate

If your VAT registration is approved, SARS will issue your VAT registration certificate containing your VAT number. This usually takes 2-4 weeks. Call SARS if you do not receive confirmation after 30 days.

Step 6) Formalize VAT Compliance Procedures

While waiting for approval, establish accounting processes to manage VAT reporting obligations. Set up bookkeeping software to track tax invoices and credit and debit notes. Prepare a tax invoice template embedded with your new VAT number. Review VAT return compliance dates. Failure to meet obligations can lead to deregistration, interest, and penalties!


In summary, it is possible for a sole proprietor in South Africa to register for and charge value-added tax provided that their taxable supplies exceed the compulsory VAT registration threshold of R1 million in 12 months. Sole proprietors should carefully weigh the pros and cons but can benefit from the ability to claim input VAT credits. With proper record-keeping and accounting, VAT-registered sole proprietors can manage their new VAT obligations.

If you suffer from VAT calculation, try our free VAT calculator to do the magic.


What are the advantages of VAT registration for a sole proprietor?

Some key advantages include claiming input tax credits, appearing larger to customers, improving competitiveness, prepare for growth above R1 million turnover.

What are the disadvantages of VAT registration for a sole proprietor?

Extra administration and compliance obligations must charge VAT on sales, extensive record-keeping required, complex tax software, or accountant costs.

How much does it cost to register for VAT?

There is no registration cost to complete the VAT101 form and submit it to SARS along with supporting documents.

When do you need to submit VAT returns and payments?

VAT201 returns must be submitted every two months by the 25th day after your tax period ends. VAT payments must be made when the VAT 201 return is submitted.

Can you register voluntarily if under the R1 million threshold?

Yes, a sole proprietor can register voluntarily even if your turnover is less than R1 million annually. This allows you to charge VAT and claim input credits.

What if my taxable supplies go over R1 million in 12 months?

Reaching the compulsory VAT registration threshold triggers the requirement to register within 30 days. There are penalties for not registering when supplies exceed R1 million.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Administrative penalties for errors are up to 200% of underpaid VAT. If SARS suspects fraudulent VAT activities, penalties include five years imprisonment or a fine.

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