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 SouthAfrica’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 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.

Six datasets are available to researchers:

  1. SARS-NT/CIT-IRP5 panel (2008-16) 
  2. Individual Panel (IRP5 and ITR12) (2011-18)
  3. Company Income Tax (CIT) (2008-16)
  4. Value-Added Tax (VAT) (2009-2017)
  5. Customs data (2009-2017)
  6. Pay-As-Your-Earn (PAYE, payroll or IRP5) (2008-2018)

To ease the work of researchers, two matched panels, the SARS-NT Panel and the Individual Panel have been developed.

The SARS-NT panel is a matched employer-employee panel containing linked data from the CIT, VAT, Customs and IRP5. You can find a detailed description of the SARS-NT panel in this WIDER Working Paper.

The Individual Panel matches payroll (IRP5) and self-assessed (ITR12) tax payer information to create a more complete overview of formal employment in South Africa. You can find a detailed description of the Individual panel in this SA-TIED Working Paper.
 

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. 
 

Research

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.
Working paper
Joshua Budlender and Amina Ebrahim
This paper documents the industry classification variables in the anonymized tax microdata available for research at the National Treasury Secure Data Facility in Pretoria. It discusses how the variables in the data are related to...
August 2020
Enterprise development
Working paper
Caro Janse Van Rensburg, Carli Bezuidenhout, Marianne Matthee, and Victor Stolzenburg
Inequality has been rising in most countries for several decades, with negative consequences for social cohesion and economic growth. Substantial gender wage gaps contribute significantly to overall wage inequality. We look at an often-overlooked driver...
August 2020
Inequality
Working paper
Aalia Cassim
Attempts to regulate the temporary employment sector have had mixed results internationally. In South Africa, temporary employment was regulated in 2015 through amendments to the Labour Relations Act. This paper uses administrative data to examine...
June 2020
Enterprise development
Working paper
Andrew Kerr
The IRP5 and IT3(a) tax data from the South African Revenue Service have been made available to researchers through a joint project between the South African Revenue Service, the National Treasury, and UNU-WIDER. In this...
May 2020
Inequality
Working paper
Jacomien Van Der Merwe and Stephan Krygsman
The purpose of this research is to investigate whether transport accessibility influences the employment duration of individuals in South Africa. The South African Revenue Service’s IRP5 administration datasets, which indicate employment duration and spatial location...
May 2020
Inequality
Working paper
Mustapha Douch
The principal contribution of this paper is to investigate the relationship between policy uncertainty, caused by recent developments in international markets, and firms’ trade margins for the largest economy in Africa: South Africa. In particular...
May 2020
Regional growth
Working paper
Estian Calitz, Eva Muwanga-Zake, Alexius Sithole, and Wynnona Steyn
Nowadays, tax depreciation allowances are used less as instruments of macroeconomic stabilization and more as long-term measures to stimulate investment. This paper tabulates the types of accelerated depreciation allowances in South Africa and calculates the...
April 2020
Public revenue
Working paper
Aroop Chatterjee, Léo Czajka, and Amory Gethin
This paper estimates the distribution of personal wealth in South Africa by combining tax microdata, household surveys, and macroeconomic balance sheet statistics. We systematically compare estimates of the wealth distribution obtained by direct measurement of...
April 2020
Inequality
Working paper
Ada Jansen, Winile Ngobeni, Alexius Sithole, and Wynnon Steyn
A key objective of many governments is to improve tax revenue mobilization. One way to achieve this is by improving tax compliance. This requires accurate knowledge of the tax gap, i.e. the difference between what...
April 2020
Public revenue