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 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. 


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. Innovation activity in South Africa: Measuring the returns to R&D (completed)
  3. On the persistence of growth for South African firms (completed)
  4. Employer characteristics and youth employment outcomes in the formal sector in South Africa (completed)
  5. Tax Research in South Africa (completed)
  6. Agglomeration and productivity in South Africa
  7. Investigating the drivers of firm-level employment in South Africa: The role of capital investment, exports, and R&D
  8. Dancing with dragons: Chinese import penetration and manufacturing firms performances in South Africa
  9. Offshoring (and inshoring) within South African manufacturing firms: An analysis of the labour market effects
  10. The effects of innovator mobility
  11. Subsidized labour (ETI) and firms
  12. Evaluation of the accounting and taxation differences of South African firms
  13. Distributional impacts of VAT (completed)
  14. The creation of an individual-level panel using administrative tax data in South Africa (completed)
  15. An investigation of corporate income tax reform options in South Africa
  16. The employment effects of a youth wage subsidy in South Africa
  17. Measuring wealth inequality in South Africa (completed)
  18. Wage inequality within and between firms in South Africa
  19. Product market competition and labour market outcomes: Firm-level evidence from South Africa
  20. Market power and market concentration in South Africa: Evidence from administrative data
  21. Gender and the South African labour market: Policy relevant research  possibilities using South African tax data  (completed)
  22. Regulating the temporary employment sector: The impact of amendments to the Labour Relations Act
  23. Can a wage subsidy system help reduce 50 per cent youth unemployment? (completed)
  24. Big and 'unprofitable': How 10% of multinational firms do 98% of profit shifting (completed)
  25. Combatting debt bias in South Africa (completed)
  26. Resource misallocation and total factor productivity: Manufacturing firms in South Africa (completed)
  27. Investigating the drivers of firm-level employment in South Africa: The role of capital investment, exports and R&D (completed)
  28. Regulating the temporary employment sector: The impact of amendments to the Labour Relations Act
  29. Data privacy and social utility: Approaches to building synthetic datasets from sensitive data
  30. Industry-level coding in tax administrative data from South Africa — Uses and limitations
  31. A survey of income data in South Africa
  32. The gains to knowledge from geocoding administrative data 
  33. Export complexity: Investigating spillovers from foreign investment in South Africa
  34. Watch and learn: The evidence of productivity spillovers from foreign investment in South Africa
  35. Worker embodied technological spillovers
  36. Shifting from deductions to credits: Unpacking the distributional effects of medical expenditure considerations in South Africa
  37. The nature and impact of depreciation allowances in South Africa
  38. Estimating the elasticity of taxable income (ETI) for South Africa
  39. Taxpayer responsiveness to taxation: Evidence from bunching at kink points of the South African income tax schedule 
  40. Distributional effects of pension- and health-related tax expenditures in South Africa
  41. The corporate income tax gap in South Africa — A top down approach
  42. The contribution of disemployment and farm concentration to rural inequality: Analysis of the 2013 increase in agricultural minimum wages
  43. Spatial analysis to determine the impact of transport accessibility on employee churn within Cape Town, South Africa.
  44. How is wealth distributed in South Africa?
  45. Construction and analysis of the inter-industry labour mobility network of South Africa
  46. Wages, employment trajectories and gender in South Africa
  47. The wage-setting power of firms: rent-sharing and monopsony in South Africa