Pretoria, 26 November 2017 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) paid R18.5 billion to 2.22 million taxpayers at the close of tax season for non-provisional taxpayers- a 26% increase from last year, on Friday, 24 November.
These refunds apply to returns filed for the 2016/2017 tax year which have been submitted during Tax Season 2017 (01 July – 24 November).
In total, R19.8 billion in refunds has been paid to individuals for this financial year to date, inclusive of prior year returns, directly contributing to household incomes and the domestic economy.   
93.63% of returns processed within 24 hours
A total of 88.47% of tax returns were assessed within 3 seconds, and 93.63% within 24 hours.  A total of 91.98% of taxpayers due for a refund that was not routed for audit or risk verification received their refund in less than 72 hours. 
R2.7-billion fraudulent claims prevented
Significantly, during Tax Season 2017, SARS prevented R2.7 billion in fraudulent claims in the Personal Income Tax environment, saving the fiscus of potential revenue loss. This was a R900 million (50%) improvement from last year where R1.8 billion in fraudulent claims was prevented during the same period (Tax Season). 
5.67 million tax returns submitted
SARS received 5.67 million returns, inclusive of returns filed for prior years, by Friday, 24 November 2017, which marked the close of tax season for non-provisional taxpayers. 
Provisional taxpayers have until 31 January 2017 to file their tax returns via eFiling. 
The submissions received comprise the following:
  • 4.289 million returns filed for the relevant tax year, 2016/2017, which sees an increase of 3.1% from last year’s figure of 4.16 million.
  • 1.28 million returns filed for prior years  - 1.19% less than last year’s figure of 1.48 million.
  • 44 782 submissions by trusts for the 2016/17 tax year. 
  • 53 054 submissions by trusts for prior years.   
A total 94% of expected returns from individuals were submitted on time, exceeding last year’s rate of 91%. The returns expected are informed by last year’s submissions and IRP5 information from employers, excluding provisional taxpayers. 
The introduction of e-DNA ensured the biometric authentication of taxpayers and the increased security of personal information. This has significantly reduced the payment of refunds into fraudulent accounts.  
Extended operating hours and uptake in digital channels
Due to high volumes, SARS branches and the Contact Centre extended operating hours, with selected branches countrywide opening on Saturdays, assisting in excess of 50 000 taxpayers to file outside of normal working hours.
There was a notable increase in the uptake of SARS’ digital channels such as the recently introduced “Help-You- eFile” service on eFiling and the SARS mobi-app, facilitating the migration from going to a branch to the use of online channels that offer the taxpayer a leisurely and convenient means of filing.
To aid this further, SARS introduced Help-you-efile, a service that allows eFilers instant access to a SARS tax agent by clicking a button if they required assistance while on their own eFiling profile.  A total of 234 666 taxpayers used the Help You e-File channel – 35% higher than last year.  Similarly, and equally pleasing, is that 47 605 taxpayers submitted their 2017 tax returns using the SARS mobi-app, a 7.3% increase from last year.
The Contact Centre’s call-back functionality - a service that allows taxpayers to prompt a call-back from SARS during high call volumes – allowed for shorter call queues coupled with more opportunities to educate and enable taxpayers to adopt eFiling as a future filing channel.
Commenting on Tax Season Commissioner Moyane said, “SARS wishes to express its appreciation to all those taxpayers who submitted their tax returns before the deadline. Paying tax is the highest form of patriotism.
With this in mind, SARS wishes to assert that the organization remains resolute, focused and single-minded about meeting our revenue collection target for South Africa.
“SARS also wishes to thank all its employees for their efforts in making Tax Season successful. The focus, discipline and selfless service of the men and women of SARS is what makes SARS one of the best revenue services in the world”.
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