Julian Haw info@julianhaw.com

Frequently asked questions

What is a form IT21 (a)?

This is the form South Africans have to submit to SARS to formalise their emigration. It must be accompanied by identity documents, passports, permanent residence visas and form 336 (b) among other things. It contains information on the tax payer and all his or her family who are emigrating with him or her. Each spouse must submit their own IT21 (a) form.

What is a form 336 (b)?

This is the form South Africans have to submit to their bankers so his or her bank can make application to the South African Reserve Bank. The bank requires the same forms as SARS except they must be certified copies. The form contains a list of all your assets and liabilities – both spouses must submit their own 336 (b) forms.

I left South Africa years ago and have a new foreign passport. Does that mean I have emigrated formally and can I access my Retirement Annuities?

If you have not previously submitted the form IT21 (a) and form 336 (b) you have not formally emigrated. This is why SARS ask for copies of these two forms before giving a tax directive to release your Retirement Annuities. Many South Africans have left the country without formally emigrating and they have become residence and citizens of their new country. However, from a South African view point they have not emigrated formally.

If I emigrate formally do I lose my South African Citizenship?

No. If you were born in South Africa you have the right to return unless the law is changed. In Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean-born citizens lost their right to citizenship because one or both parents had the right to another nationality. This is not the case in South Africa. However, if you become a citizen of another country by application, you lose the right to a South African passport whether you emigrate formally or not. The South African department of Home Affairs may not know of this until you apply for a new passport and answer the passport application question: “Have you ever applied for or been granted citizenship of another country?”

I left South Africa years ago and have no South African bank account. Why do I have to open a South African account?

South African exchange control requires a South African bank to be the intermediary between the reserve bank and you. Only a South African bank can certify your form 336 (b) for SARS and the life assurers can only pay the proceeds of your Retirement Annuity into a blocked account. This account can be opened, the proceeds received and remitted to you in your new country. The account can then be closed.

I formally emigrated years ago but no longer have a South African account. Does the above still apply?

You have to re-open a new account with the bank which handled your emigration. This is where we occasionally have a problem as some banks have failed to keep your records especially if it is more than 5 years since you emigrated. However, the problems are usually solvable.

I left South Africa many years ago and have no South African tax number. My tax advisor has also emigrated.

I have not yet had a problem reactivating a tax account.

I have heard that the Reserve Bank has relaxed the rules with regard to a bank account and the time to obtain Exchange Control approval. Is this true?

It is true that since June 2011 the bank can give approval "immediately" to qualifying emigrants who have already left and who have less than R10 million in assets. They also technically do not need a South African bank account. However, in practice, the assurers will not issue a cheque and they are precluded by law from paying into a general bank account. I recommend that an account be opened in your name to ensure you receive all the cash due to you.

I have a preservation fund and have already taken my one withdrawal before retirement. Is it true that I cannot access the rest before my retirement age even if I emigrate formally?

Yes, it is true. Preservation funds do not come under pension, provident or retirement annuity fund rules. However, since 2014, SARS have allowed preservation funds to be transferred into a retirement annuity so it can then be surrendered in terms of the emigration surrenders for retirement annuities (SARS retirement fund practice note RF 1/2012).

My wife was a housewife and has never worked or paid tax in South Africa. How do I reactivate her non existent account?

It is easy to open a new tax account for tax clearance purposes.

I have heard that formal emigration takes about six weeks. Why does the process take so long through you?

A good question! If you are in South Africa and approach your own tax office and bankers it can take as little as six weeks to be classed as an emigrant with a blocked account. However, we have postal delays, two to three weeks to receive your original documentation, SARS take two weeks to send the IT21 (a) clearance form from the Durban office to your original office. I have had one Johannesburg tax office application take three months and then the directive is posted to you instead of me. The bank can only work on the original tax clearance letters. They are not allowed to accept certified copies, e-mailed or faxed copies. The bank also takes much longer to re-open an account if you are not in South Africa. After the blocked account is open and clearance given the application to mature your retirement annuity is made and SARS takes around four weeks to calculate your tax and give you a directive. This should improve when it is no longer a manual application. I do, however, keep you informed of progress regularly.

What is the process after I give you the go ahead?

1 You authorize me to reactivate your SARS account.
  I accept appointment as your representative tax payer.
2 I send you form IT12 (a) tax clearance application for emigration which you complete and return with the IT21 (a) and the other necessary documents.
3 I send you form 336 (b) exchange control form which you complete and return.
4 You authorize me to liaise with your bank so they can advise their requirements to open a blocked account for you.
5 The bank certifies that form 336 (b) is correct, so I can take it to SARS with the IT12 (a).
6 SARS grants the tax clearance which I then take to your bank
7 Your bank applies to the South African Reserve bank for permission to open a blocked account and to remit the funds to you.
8 After the blocked account is open and the tax clearance granted. I then complete the Retirement Annuity forms for you to sign and return.
9 The maturity documents are lodged and the cash is paid into your account.
10 I advise you how much was paid and what tax was deducted and you tell the bank to send it to you in Australia, United Kingdom or the United States (for example) and close the account.
11 I invoice you.


“I had been trying to get this sorted out since May 2010 but was getting nowhere. Thanks again for bringing this to a successful conclusion. I will certainly recommend you and your services.”

— XV of Lauzat, France
October 2011