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Proposed changes to list of qualifying physical impairment or disability expenses

Last Updated May 2021

Johannesburg, 26 May 2021 – The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has issued a draft amended list of qualifying expenditure for physical impairment or disability. SAICA expresses concern that the new proposals are a continuation of the 2018 process whereby the scope and extent of these qualifying tax expenses are being reduced, writes Dr Sharon Smulders, SAICA Project Director for Tax Advocacy.

SAICA is of the view that the matter deals with the most vulnerable persons in society and that more and not less support is required, especially given the significant reduction in financial support for public special needs schools for over a decade. The discretion afforded to the Commissioner of SARS in this regard is also seen as constitutionally questionable as it gives taxing powers to the executive which are reserved for the legislature.

In respect of the current draft, the significantly reduced period to comment, which is on average 1 - 2 months, has been reduced to only 10 calendar days. This raises concerns that SARS is trying to finalise the matter before filing season 2021 begins and then retrospectively apply the proposed provisions.

Furthermore, SARS is proposing to remove the tax credit for school fees (and the cost of additional tutoring) paid in respect of learners with disabilities or impairments as they say school fees are not in consequence of a disability, but in consequence of education.

Only the cost of a learner assistant at a school and the cost of specific interventions at a “school” will be allowed, and only if an itemised list detailing the nature and cost of each intervention, including school fees, is specified on the invoice or on a covering letter issued by the school.

SAICA does not share SARS’ oversimplistic views that these costs can be separated from each other. For example, is the use of reading machines in a visually impaired classroom seen as “education” or is it related to the disability? And who does the school charge for this – all children or only some of them? There are many such costs that overlap that address a disability to enable education.

Furthermore, the administrative burden SARS is seeking to impose on these schools and parents is unreasonable. It begs the question, why would SARS seek tax collections on strict and narrow technical interpretations and arguments from these most vulnerable persons in society?

More details on the proposed changes can be found on the SARS website: List of qualifying physical impairment or disability expenses. The period for public comment is extremely short (comments due by Monday 31 May) and a request for an extension was denied. SAICA encourages all schools, those with impairments and disabilities and parents of such children, to urgently submit comments on this matter.

You are also welcomed to  send your comments on this important matter to SAICA (sharons@saica.co.za) by 30 May 2021.


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The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), South Africa’s pre-eminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. The Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 50 000 members and associates who are chartered accountants (CAs[SA]), as well as associate general accountants (AGAs[SA]) and accounting technicians (ATs[SA]), who hold positions as CEOs, MDs, board directors, business owners, chief financial officers, auditors and leaders in every sphere of commerce and industry, and who play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development.

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