Access to South African administrative micro-level tax data

The National Treasury (NT) and the Revenue Service in South Africa (SARS) are making high-level administrative tax data available for research purposes. The use of these data for research and policy formulation is a central part of the SA-TIED programme. South Africa is one of only five countries globally to grant access to this type of data for research purposes. 

The collaboration between the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), NT, and SARS on the creation of South Africa’s administrative tax database has yielded a globally unique opportunity because access to national administrative data for researchers, outside of senior officials, is rarely granted.

The possibility for anyone interested to make a research proposal to gain access to these data is a very advanced and transparent approach to managing a national revenue service’s administrative data.

Such an approach reveals the ongoing commitment of SA-TIED programme partners to the shared principle that good policy requires good research and good research requires good data.

Accessing SARS administrative data at the NT

Each of the SA-TIED work streams using these data will periodically call for research proposals during the duration of the programme (2018-2020). Answering one of these calls is the best way you can gain access to, training with, and use of the data for research purposes.

Please check our Opportunities page for research calls.

The work streams currently using these data for research are:

Data description

These are micro data, which means the units of a population are individuals or businesses. Data records are linked by using the variables they have in common. Personal information is removed so individuals and firms cannot be identified.

Four datasets are available to researchers:

  1. Company Income Tax (CIT)
  2. Value-Added Tax (VAT)
  3. Customs data
  4. Individual Income Tax (IRP5 and IT12 self-assessed)

You can find a detailed description of each of the four datasets in this WIDER Working Paper.

To ease the work of researchers, two panel datasets that link parts of these four datasets will be made available:

  1. a panel dataset that contains linked data from the CIT, VAT, Customs and IRP5 sets (ready).
  2. an employment panel data containing linked data from IRP5 and IT12 to allow researchers to track employment and earnings trends in South Africa (forthcoming).

Data security

The data is anonymized to comply with global best practices on data security and can only be accessed at a secured data facility located in Pretoria, South Africa, where three UNU-WIDER researchers work with NT and SARS staff to maintain the database and share knowledge and capabilities with anyone given access. 


If you are planning on responding to a SA-TIED call for research proposals, please check this portion of our site for completed, current, and ongoing research to avoid the duplication of existing research.  Final papers resulting from the analysis of these data will be made available on our research page alongside all other SA-TIED final papers.   
previous research collaboration between NT and UNU-WIDER has already produced a series of studies utilizing tax administrative data.

Some independent research studies have also been undertaken by staff at the NT  - an overview of this research can be accessed here.

The following papers are completed or in progress:

  1. How large is the wage penalty in the labour broker sector? (completed)
  2. The tipping point: The impact of rising electricity tariffs on large firms in South Africa (completed)
  3. Household tipping points in the face of rising electricity tariffs in South Africa (completed)
  4. Innovation activity in South Africa: Measuring the returns to R&D (completed)
  5. On the persistence of growth for South African firms (completed)
  6. Employer characteristics and youth employment outcomes in the formal sector in South Africa (completed)
  7. Tax Research in South Africa (draft)
  8. Agglomeration and productivity in South Africa
  9. Investigating the drivers of firm-level employment in South Africa: The role of capital investment, exports, and R&D
  10. Dancing with dragons: Chinese import penetration and manufacturing firms performances in South Africa
  11. Offshoring (and inshoring) within South African manufacturing firms: An analysis of the labour market effects
  12. The effects of innovator mobility
  13. Subsidized labour (ETI) and firms
  14. Evaluation of the accounting and taxation differences of South African firms
  15. Distributional impacts of VAT
  16. The creation of an individual-level panel using administrative tax data in South Africa
  17. An investigation of corporate income tax reform options in South Africa
  18. The employment effects of a youth wage subsidy in South Africa
  19. Understanding wealth inequality in South Africa
  20. Wage inequality within and between firms in South Africa
  21. Product market competition and labour market outcomes: Firm-level evidence from South Africa
  22. Market power and market concentration in South Africa: Evidence from administrative data
  23. Gender and the South African labour market: A scoping study of the possibilities that South African tax data holds for advancing understanding
  24. Regulating the temporary employment sector: The impact of amendments to the Labour Relations Act