The concept of tax migration, or “financial emigration,” has become increasingly relevant for South Africans moving abroad. As the global landscape evolves, so too do the opportunities for work and life in foreign countries. However, relocating abroad involves more than just packing your bags; it necessitates navigating through the complex process of tax emigration from South Africa to ensure compliance with tax laws and to optimize your financial situation. This guide aims to simplify this process, offering essential insights and steps for South Africans planning to move overseas in 2024.

Understanding Tax Emigration

Tax emigration, formally known as “financial emigration,” is the process of changing your status with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) from resident to non-resident for tax and exchange control purposes. This doesn’t mean renouncing citizenship but rather reclassifying your tax residency to reflect your move abroad, ensuring you meet all regulatory requirements and potentially optimizing your tax obligations.

The Process of Tax Emigration

The process of tax emigration involves several steps, including declaring your intention to emigrate financially to SARS and ensuring all your tax affairs are in order. It’s crucial to undertake this process meticulously to avoid complications. Seeking professional advice is highly recommended to navigate the complexities of tax laws and exchange controls. For assistance with the financial aspects of emigration, including foreign currency exchange, consider services like those offered by New Heights Finance, which specializes in helping South Africans with tax emigration.

Detailed Steps for Tax Emigration

1. Understanding Your Tax Residency

Before initiating the tax emigration process, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes tax residency in South Africa. South Africa uses a residence-based tax system, where residents are taxed on their worldwide income. Your tax residency is determined by the physical presence test and the ordinarily resident test. Understanding these criteria is the first step in the tax emigration process.

2. Consultation with a Tax Professional

Given the complexities involved, consulting with a tax professional experienced in tax emigration is advisable. They can offer tailored advice based on your specific circumstances, help you understand your tax obligations, and guide you through the process of complying with South African and international tax laws.

3. Settling Your Tax Affairs

Before you can formally emigrate for tax purposes, all your tax affairs must be in order. This includes submitting any outstanding tax returns and paying any due taxes. SARS requires a clear record before processing your emigration, which is crucial for obtaining a Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC) for emigration.

4. Completing the MP336(b) Form

Part of the emigration process involves completing the MP336(b) form, which is a Reserve Bank application. This form is essential for changing your status for exchange control purposes and requires detailed financial information, including a declaration of your assets and liabilities.

5. Tax Clearance Certificate for Emigration

Applying for a Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC) specifically for emigration is a crucial step. This certificate proves that your tax affairs are in order and is required by both SARS and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to process your financial emigration.

6. Opening a Non-resident Bank Account

As part of the financial emigration process, you’ll need to convert your South African bank account into a non-resident account. This account is used to manage your South African financial affairs from abroad, including the transfer of funds outside the country under the guidance of exchange control regulations.


What is tax emigration in South Africa?

Tax emigration is the formal process of changing your status with SARS and the SARB from a tax resident to a non-tax resident. This is an essential step for South Africans moving abroad to ensure compliance with local tax laws and to manage their tax obligations effectively.

How do I financially emigrate from SARS?

To financially emigrate from SARS, you must ensure all your tax affairs are up to date, submit an emigration application through SARS eFiling, and declare your worldwide assets and income. It often requires a tax clearance certificate indicating all your tax obligations have been settled.

How do I notify SARS of emigration?

You notify SARS of your emigration by submitting a tax emigration application and the necessary documentation through their eFiling system. This includes a declaration of your assets and liabilities, and may also require a formal emigration approval from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

What happens if you don’t financially emigrate from South Africa?

Failing to financially emigrate can lead to significant legal and financial implications. You may continue to be taxed on your worldwide income by SARS, face penalties for non-compliance, and encounter difficulties with accessing and transferring funds abroad. It’s crucial to complete this process to avoid these complications and ensure your finances are properly managed according to your new residency status.

What is the difference between tax emigration and physical emigration?

Tax emigration refers to the process of changing your status with SARS and SARB to non-resident for tax and exchange control purposes. Physical emigration is the act of moving to another country. Tax emigration is a legal and financial process, while physical emigration involves relocating your life and possessions.

Can I reverse my tax emigration status?

Yes, it is possible to reverse your tax emigration status if you return to South Africa and meet the criteria to be considered a tax resident again. This process involves re-registering with SARS as a tax resident and ensuring compliance with the relevant tax laws and regulations.

What are the consequences of incorrectly declaring my tax status?

Incorrectly declaring your tax status can lead to significant penalties, interest charges, and legal action from SARS. It’s important to accurately declare your status and fully disclose all required information to avoid these consequences.


Tax migration is critical for South Africans moving abroad, ensuring compliance with tax laws and optimizing financial arrangements in their new country of residence. The process can be complex, involving various legal and financial considerations. However, you can navigate this transition smoothly with careful planning and the right guidance, such as the services offered by NH Finance for tax emigration from South Africa. Ensuring your tax status accurately reflects your residency is not just about legal compliance; it’s a step towards securing your financial future as you embark on your new life abroad.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is tax emigration for South Africans?

Tax emigration is the formal process of changing your status from being a tax resident to a non-tax resident of South Africa in the eyes of the South African Revenue Service (SARS). This process is important for individuals who have left or are planning to leave South Africa to live or work abroad for an extended period.

Q: Why would a South African need to consider tax emigration?

A South African might need to consider tax emigration to avoid being taxed on their worldwide income by SARS. As a tax resident, you are liable to pay tax in South Africa on your global income. By becoming a non-resident for tax purposes, you are only taxed on your South African-sourced income.

Q: What are the criteria for being considered a non-resident for tax purposes in South Africa?

The criteria involve not meeting the requirements of the physical presence test and/or ordinarily resident test. Essentially, if you are physically absent from South Africa for a certain period or you no longer consider South Africa your true home, you may qualify as a non-resident for tax purposes.

Q: How does one formally undergo the process of tax emigration with SARS?

The process typically involves declaring your non-residency status to SARS through your tax returns, along with providing evidence of your emigration. This might include documentation related to your employment overseas, residency status in another country, and evidence of a new home abroad. It’s advisable to consult with a tax professional to ensure all necessary documentation is properly prepared and submitted.

Q: Are there any tax implications or obligations after completing the tax emigration process?

After completing the tax emigration process, you will only be taxed on your South African-sourced income. However, it’s important to be aware of exit charges, such as Capital Gains Tax (CGT), which is often referred to as an “exit tax”. This tax is applicable to your worldwide assets, treating them as if they were disposed of at market value on the day before you cease to be a tax resident.

Q: Can a tax emigrant still own property in South Africa?

Yes, a tax emigrant can still own property in South Africa. However, rental income from that property, or any other South African-sourced income, will still be subject to South African tax, albeit potentially at different rates or with different exemptions than those for residents.

Q: What is the difference between financial emigration and tax emigration?

Financial emigration is a process with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and relates to your status for exchange control purposes, whereas tax emigration relates to your status with SARS for tax purposes. While related, these processes are distinct and have different implications for your financial and tax affairs.

Q: Is it possible to reverse tax emigration?

Reversing tax emigration is possible if you return to South Africa and meet the criteria to be considered a tax resident again. This would involve re-establishing your economic and personal ties to South Africa and potentially passing the ordinarily resident or physical presence tests.