NATIONAL NEWS - The South African Revenue Service’s (Sars) continued attack on the ability of taxpayers to claim tax relief for the education costs of the disabled has been described as “mean and disrespectful”.
School fees as a qualifying expense have been removed in the recent draft response document on the list of qualifying physical impairment or disability expenditure.
This is the latest curveball thrown at parents of disabled children to ostensibly “curb abuse” and prevent discrimination against parents with abled children.
Sars argues in the document that school fees are not in the consequence of a disability but in consequence of education. Therefore, school fees will no longer qualify as a medical expense.
Craig Miller, tax director at Webber Wentzel, says this is a very simplistic way of looking at it. There is a reason for the existence of special needs schools.
Special needs children cannot survive in a mainstream environment and the government has not provided any viable alternatives, he says.
“The special needs school creates the structure from where the different therapies can be administered in order for the children to develop, as mainstream schools typically do not have the infrastructure. These schools often operate on the premise that the school fees cover the therapies offered at the school.”
Last year parents received the first blow when school fees for private and public special education needs schools were limited to the amount in excess of fees at their closest fee paying private or public schools.
In terms of the proposed new rules, the parent must separately list the cost of “interventions” at the school “in consequence” of the disability.
This includes among others, a care worker assisting a child, a social worker or psychologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, or audiologist assisting the learner.
“It (Sars) wants you to itemise every [separate] therapy which is provided at the school. It is really difficult to see how this will work in practice.”