Tax invoice fraud is a form of malpractice in which scammers submit fake or falsely detailed invoices or payment requests to businesses, hoping to deceive them into making payments. This type of scam can result in significant financial losses for the targeted businesses.

This article aims to outline the legal requirements for a tax invoice, providing essential information on what to look for to avoid falling victim to tax invoice fraud.

In South Africa, businesses operate within a Value-Added Tax (VAT) system. A business in South Africa is compulsorily required to register as a VAT vendor if it earns more than R1 million over 12 consecutive months.
The main cost benefit for VAT-registered businesses is that the system allows them to claim back money from the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

VAT-registered businesses can deduct the VAT they pay on business expenses (input tax) from the VAT they collect, on behalf of SARS, when charging customers for the goods or services they provide (output tax), provided their input tax exceeds their output tax.

The tax invoice is a crucial document in this system. Without a proper tax invoice, a business cannot claim deductions from SARS.

Section 20(4) of the Value-Added Tax Act 89 of 1991 (VAT Act) states that a tax invoice must contain specific details about the taxable supply made by the business, as well as information about the parties involved in the transaction.

As of January 8, 2016, a valid tax invoice must include according to the VAT Act the following information:

  1. The words ‘Tax Invoice,’ ‘VAT Invoice,’ or ‘Invoice’,
  2. Name, address, and VAT registration number of the supplier,
  3. Name, address, and VAT registration number of the recipient, if the recipient is a VAT vendor,
  4. Serial number and date of issue of the invoice,
  5. Accurate description of goods and/or services,
  6. Quantity or volume of goods or services supplied and,
  7. Value of the supply, the amount of tax charged, and the consideration of the supply (value and the tax).

A business is required to issue a full tax invoice (containing information 1-7) when the consideration for the supply exceeds R5000 and may issue an abridged tax invoice (containing information 1, 2, 4, 5, 7) when it is less than or equal to R5000. No tax invoice is required if the consideration is less than or equal to R50.

Accordingly, here are some key considerations for detecting tax invoice fraud:

  • Ensure that all tax invoices received contain all the required information as stated by law.
  • Check if a company is registered for VAT with SARS by using the SARS VAT vendor portal. If you notice any issues, it’s best to contact SARS directly to address them.
  • Always make sure that the details of the company match, as fraudsters may use legitimate VAT numbers that don’t belong to the business they claim to be.
  • Keep in mind that a business’s income tax number, although a 10-digit number issued by SARS, is not the same as its VAT number.
  • Consider the size and nature of the business from which you receive the tax invoice. Larger organisations may be required to be registered for VAT in specific circumstances, and an invoice without a VAT registration number may raise concerns.
  • Train your employees to be vigilant and sceptical when dealing with invoices and payments, and to watch out for any red flags.
  • Consider verifying the authenticity of an invoice by directly contacting the VAT vendor. It is advisable to regularly check in with existing suppliers to ensure that any payment details are accurate and verified.
  • Internally, ensure that all departments have approved and agree regarding payments. Double-check payment amounts against the cost of goods or services rendered.

These key considerations are not exhaustive, the overarching concept to keep in mind is that it is essential to be proactive rather than reactive to minimise the risk of fraud in your day-to-day operations.

If you need assistance in verifying the authenticity of a tax invoice or identity of a business relationship, such as a new supplier, feel free to contact DML Forensics at for your due diligence needs.


  • The Value-Added Tax Act 89 of 1991 (VAT Act)
  • SARS Website, Tax Invoices Information
  • Finance Insights for Professionals, How to Spot Invoice Fraud (And 7 Ways to Stop It)
  • Search, How to Check VAT Registration Status, Tevait Feanle