Introduction

Tax invoices play a pivotal role in the value added tax (VAT) system for suppliers and recipients alike. Under the VAT Act (89/1991), supplying vendors must issue tax invoices that comply with the VAT Act's requirements within 21 days of making taxable supplies to recipients. Similarly, recipient vendors will be entitled to claim input tax deductions only in respect of VAT costs that are incurred for the purpose of making taxable supplies, to the extent that they are in possession of a valid tax invoice when claiming the deduction.

Therefore, tax invoices are an essential part of vendors' audit trails and their enterprise activities. Failing to issue a tax invoice contravenes the VAT Act and is an offence under the Tax Administration Act (28/2011).

Tax invoice requirements

In order to be valid, the VAT Act requires a tax invoice to contain:

  • the words 'tax invoice', 'invoice' or 'VAT invoice';
  • the name, address and VAT registration number of the supplier and the recipient;
  • an individual serial number and the date on which the tax invoice was issued;
  • a full and proper description of the supplied goods or services and the quantity thereof; and
  • the value of the supply and the amount of VAT charged thereon.

A supplier will typically generate a tax invoice based on the information supplied to it by the recipient. On issuing such a tax invoice, the supplier will have fulfilled its obligation of issuing a valid tax invoice in respect of a taxable supply made. However, to the extent that any information on the tax invoice (other than the information pertaining to the VAT, value or consideration of the supply) is incorrect, the document will technically not constitute a valid tax invoice and the recipient vendor will not be entitled to rely on it to support a claim for an input tax deduction. The recipient vendor will accordingly require the supplier to reissue the tax invoice with the correct details. However, under the VAT Act, it is an offence for a supplier to issue more than one tax invoice for each taxable supply. In practice, when there is an error with the amount of VAT or the value or consideration that is reflected on a tax invoice, this does not invalidate the tax invoice and may be remedied simply by issuing a credit or debit note. However, until now, there had been no mechanism to correct mistakes in respect of the other particulars required to be reflected on a tax invoice (eg, the recipient's name, address or VAT registration number).

Further, if the VAT Act makes it unlawful to issue more than one tax invoice for every supply, a real problem is created for recipient vendors that wish to claim input tax deductions but were instead issued with tax invoices containing incorrect information.

VAT Act's amendment

This issue was identified by the National Treasury and an amendment to Section 20 of the VAT Act has now been introduced in the Tax Administration Laws Amendment Act (22/2018), which was announced on 17 January 2019 with immediate effect. Following the amendment, where a tax invoice contains an error in respect of the particulars required to be included and it would be inappropriate to issue a credit note or debit note in respect thereof, the supplier must amend the tax invoice to reflect the correct particulars within 21 days from the date of the request to do so. Under the amendment, the tax invoice's correction will not:

  • constitute a contravention of the prohibition to issue more than one tax invoice for the same supply; or
  • affect the time of supply contemplated in Section 9 of the VAT Act.

The amendment also requires suppliers to obtain and retain information that is sufficient to identify the transaction to which the tax invoice and the corrected tax invoice refers.

Comment

The amendment to Section 20 of the VAT Act (although seemingly quite insignificant) is welcome. It creates certainty regarding a supplier's ability to correct a tax invoice that has already been issued and provides a remedy to recipient vendors which previously had difficulty obtaining a corrected tax invoice from suppliers.

However, it is practical to consider whether suppliers' invoicing systems will allow for any particulars to be amended on invoices that have already been issued. It is also unclear whether suppliers will be allowed to issue manual tax invoices reflecting the correct details where their systems do not allow for the issued tax invoice's particulars to be amended. The South African Revenue Service will hopefully clarify this in a future interpretation note.

For further information on this topic please contact Varusha Moodaley at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr by telephone (+27 115 621 000) or email (varusha.moodaley@cdhlegal.com). The Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr website can be accessed at www.cliffedekkerhofmeyr.com.

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