Can You Claim VAT on Staff Welfare South Africa?

Happy employees are more productive, so investing in their well-being through various perks and benefits makes perfect business sense. Businesses in South Africa are often concerned about minimizing costs and maximizing tax benefits.

One area of interest is whether Value Added Tax (VAT) can be claimed on staff welfare. Fringe benefits such as refreshments are subject to VAT. If certain conditions are met, employers can claim a VAT refund on refreshments.

Here’s a detailed discussion of claiming VAT on staff welfare in South Africa.

Conditions and Limitations for Claiming VAT On Staff Welfare

Businesses must meet certain conditions to claim VAT on social welfare for their employees. There should be a reasonable scale, an appropriate nature, and direct connections between the goodness provided and work activities. To support your VAT claim, you should maintain proper documentation, including invoices, receipts, and attendance records.

  • You might be able to claim VAT if you provide meals to your employees during working hours and they are directly tied to their work activities (for example, catering for a late-night project or on-site meals for shift workers). Keep in mind that SARS scrutinizes these claims closely, so make sure your documentation is accurate and that your claims are connected to your work duties.
  • Upskilling your employees through courses, workshops, or conferences related to their job roles can qualify for VAT deductions. Make sure to consider this as an investment in the future of your company (and a way to save a lot of money on taxes at the same time!).
  • In certain cases, wellness initiatives like on-site flu vaccinations and gym memberships may qualify for VAT exemption, but proceed with caution. A tax professional should be consulted to ensure that you comply with the law.

Claiming VAT On Staff Medical Expense

In South Africa, businesses can generally claim VAT on expenses related to their taxable activity. However, when it comes to staff medical bills, the scenario differs slightly. According to the South African Revenue Service (SARS), VAT can only be claimed on medical expenses if the employer is registered as a VAT vendor and the medical services are provided to employees during their jobs.

VAT Exclusions in Staff Welfare Expenses

While several staff welfare expenses are eligible for VAT claims, certain exclusions exist. Understanding these exclusions is crucial to prevent potential issues with tax compliance. Expenses that are typically excluded from VAT claims include:

Luxury Services: Costs related to extravagant or luxury services that exceed reasonable thresholds.

Personal Items: Expenditure on personal items that do not directly contribute to the overall welfare of employees.

Entertainment Expenses: Costs associated with entertainment activities that are not directly linked to the well-being or development of employees.

How to Ensure Successful VAT Claims

Keep Detailed Records

Maintain meticulous records of all staff welfare expenses. This includes invoices, receipts, and any documentation that supports your claim. A well-documented trail is your best ally.

Seek Professional Advice

When in doubt, consult with a tax professional. VAT regulations can be complex, and getting expert advice ensures you’re on the right track. It’s an investment that could save you headaches down the road.

Stay Informed About Changes

Tax laws are not set in stone. They evolve, and it’s crucial to stay informed about any changes that might impact your VAT claims. Regularly check for updates from SARS to ensure compliance.


Is It Possible To Claim VAT From A South African Company That Isn’t VAT Registered?

In limited circumstances, a vendor may claim a deduction (notional input tax) from a business that does not register for VAT. In the production and distribution chain, VAT is non-cumulative, which means an earlier VAT payment is eligible for a credit or deduction.

What Is the South African VAT Rate On Labor?

VAT is only charged on the taxable goods and services provided by the business. Certain types of supplies are not included in this list. These include salaries, private non-business related goods and services; sales of private items; and certain supplies that are exempt from this list.

Is It Possible To Reclaim VAT On Staff Gifts?

Goods purchased for personal use are not eligible for VAT reimbursement. Similarly, VAT rules apply to expenses associated with normal business operations such as parking, fuel, company cars, and transportation.

In South Africa, Can Tourists Claim VAT Back?

Non-resident foreign passport holders, over 7 years of age, on a temporary trip to South Africa, can claim a VAT refund, provided the supplier levied VAT and the supplier is a VAT-registered company. Residents of South Africa, as well as holders of South African passports, are not included in this category.


There are no simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to whether you can claim VAT on staff welfare in South Africa. Instead, it’s more like a dance where you carefully navigate the steps, mindful of the rules and subtleties.

Although VAT claims can be made in areas such as training, wellness programs, social events, and certain employee benefits, it is important to know the exclusions and gray areas. For successful VAT claims, it is important to keep detailed records, seek professional advice, and stay up-to-date on tax regulations. So, calculate your Value-Added Tax with our VAT Calculator.

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