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Business Basics: What costs can you claim?

Whether you’re set up as a sole proprietor or a company in South Africa, every cost you incur that directly relates to operating your business could be tax-deductible.

But how do tax-deductible business expenses work and what types of expenses should you be tracking? Here’s what you need to know.


According to SARS, tax-deductible business expenses are “expenses incurred in the operation of a business”. In other words, any purchase you make for the purpose of running your business counts as a business expense.


Here’s a list of tax-deductible business expenses in South Africa that you might be able to claim to reduce your bill next tax season:

1. Business Running Costs

This includes all financial outgoings that are incurred as part of running your business, such as:

  • Material and equipment costs

  • Employee costs and administration costs

  • Business/office rental costs

  • Office supplies

  • Phone costs

  • Travel and transport, including business vehicle costs

  • Uniforms (if needed)

  • Wholesale purchase costs for goods resold

  • Financial charges (such as bank fees), utilities

  • Legal fees

  • Insurance fees

  • Marketing, advertising and promotion costs

If you have a home office, you can also claim a percentage of your home expenses for work use. This includes:

  • Rent or mortgage

  • Insurance

  • Rates and taxes

  • Repair costs to the premises

  • Utilities

  • Cleaning

The percentage you can claim depends on how often you work from home and how much of the space is used for business purposes. It’s a good idea to check with a tax advisor on how much you can deduct.


This is the more interesting list! These are the items often forgotten by small businesses:

Capital expenses

Capital expenses are purchases of physical goods or services intended to be used long-term by your business. Example machinery, vehicles, computers.

Education expenses

If you invest in education for yourself or your staff that directly relates to operating your business, you can deduct the cost as a business expense.

Entertainment expenses

All expenses incurred while entertaining clients are tax deductible. This includes drinks, meals, live entertainment and venue hire. However, you must be able to prove to SARS that the expenses were incurred in pursuit of business.

Business Start-up expenses

These are expenses relating to your business that were incurred before your first year of trade.

Net operating losses

Any losses you have incurred in the same business in previous years can be carried forward as a tax deduction.


Whether you are a sole proprietor or a company, you are entitled to claim legitimate business expenses as tax deductions.

However, if you run your business as a sole proprietor – that is, your business is not a separate legal entity from you – the income you make from trading must be reported as part of your personal income tax return. There is also no “minimum threshold” to meet before you are required to file taxes.

With this in mind, it’s important to keep comprehensive, separate lists of business expenses and personal expenses.


Have a question? Leave a comment below and we will respond.

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