Our clients who earn only a salary will know that very few tax deductions are available against salary income for income tax purposes and whereby they may reduce the taxable income derived ultimately from such remunerations. Section 23(m) of the Income Tax Act[1] provides that none of the deductions ordinarily available to taxpayers in terms of section 11 are allowed against salary income, other than for a limited few. We set out these deductions which are available below:

  1. Contributions made by taxpayers to a pension fund, provident fund or retirement annuity fund may be deducted against salary income in accordance with the provisions of section 11F;
  2. To the extent that an individual incurs legal fees, wear and tear-related costs or bad or doubtful debts as part of his/her employment, such expenditure will be deductible.[2] (Although it is possible that a wear and tear-related allowance may be available against a laptop or textbooks acquired as example, it is in our experience practically highly unlikely for legal fees, bad debts and doubtful debts to arise from an employment trade);
  3. Where amounts received, either as a restraint of trade payment or as ordinary remuneration for employment services rendered, are refunded by the employee, those amounts refunded may be legitimately claimed as an income tax deduction;[3] and
  4. Expenses incurred towards rent of, cost of repairs[4] of or expenses in connection with any dwelling, house or domestic premises, those costs may be claimed as deductions, to the extent that it is incurred as part of the individual’s employment and on condition that it does not offend the provisions of section 23(b) which deal with “home office” expenses.

Other than for the above, very few other deductions are available for individual taxpayers earning only a salary. Outside the ambit of section 11, the only other deductions which we typically encounter are medical aid contributions incurred, amounts claimed against travel allowances received or donations made to qualifying public benefit organisations. Of late, investments in section 12J “venture capital companies” may also be claimed as income tax deductions against salary income.

The above limitations only apply to salaried income received from employment though. Where an individual is also engaged in another trade (such as the renting out of an apartment), the above limitations do not apply to that separate trade. In such case, section 23(m) will not make the deductions in section 11 unavailable, although this is only as relates to the separate (rental) trade.

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)

[1] No. 58 of 1962.

[2] Sections 11(a), (c), (i) and (j) respectively.

[3] Sections 11(nA) and (nB) respectively.

[4] In terms of section 11(d).