Answer to a question from a reader

What can I do if SARS keeps declining my tax directive application to access my provident fund? My Malawian passport expired and I lost my job six months ago.

The short answer

If your tax directive application is declined, it may be due to incorrect data captured

The whole question

Dear Athalie

SARS continue to decline the tax directive that the provident fund administrator needs in order to release my provident fund. I lost my job some six months ago, and my Malawian passport has expired. SARS at one point confirmed that my tax affairs were in order and yet the tax directive continues to be declined.

The long answer

The decline in tax directive may be due to the following changes that SARS initiated in September 2022:

From the SARS website:

“The guide was updated to indicate that the information on the FSCA website must be used to complete the tax directive application forms to avoid the rejection of the application forms. This means the exact names must be used (including spelling, special characters, etc.)

“Please note that going forward, SARS will be validating the registration data and status of entities submitting Tax Directive applications with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA). Due to the additional control measures, some applications will inevitably be declined due to failed validations if the data that is captured is not aligned with the information on the FSCA website.

"Fund Administrators and Long-term Insurers are encouraged to ensure that the registration data (name of the fund, name of participating employer, name of Long-term Insurer and the registered number) captured on the tax directive application is correct and corresponds with the registration data on the FSCA records.

In the unfortunate event that the tax directive application is declined due to incorrect data captured, kindly ensure that the registration data with the FSCA is used and resubmit tax directive application."

On 10 October 2022, SARS announced an update: 

"Where Funds and Fund Administrators experience spelling errors between information on the FSCA website that is not aligned with your FSCA registration letter, a request to correct the spelling error must be sent to the following contact person: Jodine Scholtz at at the FSCA. Please note that this email address is only for the correction of spelling errors of names. You are advised to continue using the name exactly as it is listed on the FSCA website until the changes on the name have been effected to avoid a rejection of the directive application.

"All other issues relating to the FSCA, must be directly addressed with the FSCA via the existing channels available to the Funds and Fund Administrators."

It may be worth asking the provident fund administrator to email the FCSA at, or telephone them at 0800 20 3722 (toll-free), to check if there is some discrepancy between what the fund submitted to SARS and the information on the FSCA website, which has resulted in the tax directive being declined.

You could go online through Help-You-eFile and interact with a SARS agent, while the agent shares the view of your eFiling profile screen. SARS says that this service allows the SARS agent to identify the problems you are experiencing and help you to resolve them. 

If this does not resolve the problem, you could also phone the SARS Complaints Management Office (CMO) on 0860 12 12 16.

If you cannot get satisfactory answers from SARS, you could also contact the tax ombudsman on or telephone the tax ombudsman at 0800 662 837.

If you are unable to access your provident fund because of your expired passport, you will not lose the money, which belongs to you, though you cannot access it now. What happens to unclaimed provident and pension funds is that they are put in an unclaimed benefits fund for two years. Though it is said that these funds will be prescribed after some two years, people have managed to claim their unclaimed funds after longer periods and the National Treasury has indicated that they are not in favour of prescribing these funds.

In terms of UIF, unfortunately, you are correct in assuming that you won’t be able to get it with your passport having expired, because UIF liaises with Home Affairs to check the IDs of foreign residents. And this brings us to the central problem that you are facing: that if your passport has expired, you are technically an ‘illegal foreigner’ in terms of the Immigration Act. This means that you could be arrested and deported.

If you are deported, you are likely to be declared ‘an undesirable person’ by the Director-General of Home Affairs. That would mean that you would be banned from re-entering South Africa from a year up to five years. 

Obviously, as you have been out of work for the last six months or so and waiting for your provident fund money, you do not currently have the funds to renew your expired passport. It is difficult to imagine how you might be able to raise the R5,000 needed, but that might be your best bet. Do you perhaps have relatives, friends, church organisations that you might be able to call on for financial assistance to get your passport renewed? 

In any event, you urgently need some legal advice, and you could approach one of the following organisations who assist poor and vulnerable individuals and communities:

  • Lawyers for Human Rights

4th Floor Heerengracht Building, 87 De Korte Street corner Melle Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2001

Tel:  +27 11 339 1960

  • Legal Resources Centre – Johannesburg Office

Bram Fischer Towers, 15th floor, 20 Albert Street, Johannesburg, 2001

Tel: +27 11 836 9831

  • Legal Resources Centre – Cape Town

3rd Floor, Greenmarket Place, 54 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town, 8001

Tel: +27 21 481 3000

  • Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town

47 Commercial Street, Cape Town, 8001

Tel: +27 21 465 6433

  • ProBono.Org

ProBono.Org is an independent NGO that works with the private legal profession to provide free legal services to the poor.

Johannesburg office:
Phone (011) 339 6080
Fax to (011) 339 6077
Send email to

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 9, 2023, 9:04 a.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.