A natural person ordinarily resident in South Africa, or who is physically present in South Africa for a specified period, is considered a resident for tax purposes. There is no statutory definition of ‘ordinarily resident’. South African courts have held that a taxpayer is ordinarily resident in the country of their most fixed or settled residence, the country to which they would naturally, and as a matter of course, return from their wanderings, or their usual or principal home.
If not ordinarily resident in South Africa, an individual is considered a South African resident if the individual is physically present in South Africa for more than 91 days, in aggregate, in the relevant tax year and each of the preceding five tax years, and also for more than 915 days, in aggregate, in the preceding five tax years. If a person, who has become a South African resident in terms of this physical presence test, spends a continuous period of at least 330 days outside South Africa, then the individual ceases to be a resident from the date of the beginning of the absence from South Africa.
On ceasing to be tax resident in South Africa, an individual’s qualifying worldwide assets are deemed to be disposed of on the day before their date of departure from South Africa. Any growth in value on the assets could trigger a capital gains tax liability. It should be noted that there are other tax return filing requirements for the year of assessment during which a natural person ceases to be a South African tax resident.