Don’t fall for this solar scam that’s making rounds in South Africa

As South Africa looks to solar energy as a solution to load shedding, scammers and criminals are finding ways to take advantage. Recently, the City of Tshwane issued a warning to residents of scammers posing as city representatives rolling out a new solar initiative. These scammers, pretending to be contractors in a City of Tshwane credit control contractor vehicle, are taking pictures of houses under the guise of a “Tshwane Solar Installation Drive.” They then approach homeowners and ask for their identity documents.

The city warns that these scammers are currently operating in Soshanguve but urges all residents to be cautious and not fall for the scam, as there is no solar installation drive taking place. If you suspect any suspicious behavior or operations by these fake contractors, report them to the authorities.

This solar scam is happening at the same time as another emerging trend among criminals. As more homeowners purchase alternative power supplies, solar panels are increasingly being stolen from properties, usually during the day while homeowners are at work. Private security group Fidelity ADT recommends that homeowners keep up with security trends as criminals continuously alter their patterns of behavior.

Despite these challenges, South African households have imported over R5 billion worth of home solar equipment in the last year. As a result, solar builds and projects are expected to increase significantly following the announcement from National Treasury that private households can secure a rebate on solar panel installations – to a maximum of R15,000 – and businesses can get a 125% rebate on investment into solar projects.

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If you’re interested in claiming the solar panel installation rebate, here’s how it works. Individuals who pay personal income tax can claim the rebate against their tax liability. This rebate is not intended for solar installations at business premises. Individuals can claim a rebate to the value of 25% of the cost of new and unused solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, up to a maximum of R15,000 per individual. Only new and unused solar PV panels qualify, and other components of a system, such as batteries, inverters, fittings, or diesel generators, and installation costs do not qualify. The rebate applies to qualifying solar PV panels that are brought into use for the first time between March 1, 2023, and February 29, 2024. To claim the rebate, individuals must have a VAT invoice that indicates the cost of the solar PV panels separately from other items, proof of payment, and a Certificate of Compliance. PAYE taxpayers can claim the rebate on assessment during the 2023/24 filing season, and provisional taxpayers can claim the rebate against provisional and final payments.

As the demand for solar energy continues to rise, it’s essential to remain vigilant against scammers and criminals who seek to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. If you’re interested in installing solar panels, make sure to do your research and only work with trusted contractors.