JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT – NATIONAL TREASURY AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN REVENUE SERVICE

ON THE RELEASE OF THE 14TH ANNUAL EDITION OF TAX STATISTICS

PRETORIA, TUESDAY 25 JANUARY 2022

National Treasury and the South African Revenue Service have published the 14th annual edition of the Tax Statistics.

The 2021 edition provides an overview of tax revenue collections and tax return information for the 2017 to 2021 tax years, as well as the 2016/17 to 2020/21 fiscal years.

Revenue collections in the 2020/21 fiscal year were severely impacted on by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions and an already struggling economy that contracted by 7% in 2020. Total tax revenue collections for 2020/21 declined by 7.8% to R1 249.7 billion from the R1 355.8 billion collected in the previous year.

Key points in the 2021 edition are:

The 2021 Tax Statistics documents are available on the SARS and National Treasury website at www.sars.gov.za and www.treasury.gov.za

SARS and National Treasury welcome public comments and suggestions to continue to enhance the publication’s utility in policy evaluation, and developing new insights into South Africa’s social and economic context. These can be provided via e-mail to [email protected]

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6 January 2022 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is saddened to note the passing yesterday evening of its first Commissioner, Mr Trevor van Heerden. He was a skilled and dedicated civil servant who committed more than forty years of his life to SARS and one of its predecessors, Inland Revenue.

Mr Van Heerden played an instrumental role in the establishment of SARS as we know it today. He was also deeply involved in the development of the taxation of fringe benefits and the Value-Added Tax Act, 1991.

Commissioner Edward Kieswetter, on behalf of SARS, expresses his deepest condolences to the Van Heerden family. He wishes the family strength during this difficult time.

For more information, contact [email protected]

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28 December 2021 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) today released trade statistics for November 2021 recording a preliminary trade balance surplus of R35.83 billion. These statistics include trade data with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN). The year-to-date (01 January to 30 November 2021) preliminary trade balance surplus of R412.51 billion is an improvement from the R238.42 billion trade balance surplus for the comparable period in 2020. Exports increased by 18.4% year-on-year whilst imports increased by 24.6% over the same
period.

The R35.83 billion preliminary trade balance surplus for November 2021 is attributable to exports of R162.79 billion and imports of R126.96 billion. Exports increased by R6.96 billion (4.5%) between October and November 2021 and imports decreased by R1.19 billion (0.9%) over the same period.

Media Release – November 2021

Or visit the Trade Statistics webpage.

17 December 2021 – The South African Revenue Service and the National Treasury, have in the past 13 years jointly published the annual Tax Statistics bulletin.

The 14th Tax Statistics publication will be published on 20 January 2022. The 2021 edition will provide an overview of tax revenue collections and tax return information for the 2017 to 2020 tax years, as well as the 2016/17 to 2020/2021 fiscal years.

The 2021 Tax Statistics Publication will continue to build on the feedback received regarding previous editions and will largely follow the format below:

As usual, an electronic version of the Tax Statistics and the tables will be published on both the SARS and National Treasury websites after the release of the publication.

For further information, please consult SARS or NT, at [email protected] and [email protected]

 

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Tshwane, 13 December 2021 – The Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Mr Edward Kieswetter has thanked all individual non-provisional taxpayers who filed their income tax returns by the extended deadline of 2 December 2021. He also extended similar gratitude to all intermediaries and stakeholders who support the strengthening of the tax ecosystem.

“Such voluntary compliance reinforces our belief that most taxpayers want to do the right thing and meet their legal obligations. We are working very hard to make this important task easy and simple by providing clarity and certainty and whilst expanding online channels through which taxpayers can transact with our organization.

“Despite many challenges, including Covid-19 restrictions, load shedding and our own internal limitations, we are pleased that our strategic intent of promoting voluntary compliance is gradually gaining momentum as can be seen in the statistics and trends for this filing season which are very encouraging under the circumstances,” Mr Kieswetter added.

“This increase in voluntary compliance was made possible through a virtual filing season, which aimed to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on taxpayers, our staff and other citizens.  Coincidentally, the shift towards a virtual tax filing season is directly aligned to our vision of building a smart, modern SARS that is trusted and admired.”

A summary of this results of year’s filing season for individuals shows that the virtual filing season is taking shape, and that our vision is becoming realisable. Over 4.3 million non-provisional tax returns were submitted to date. This is an increase of 46% over last year.

At the launch of the filing season on 1 July, we made several commitments to taxpayers about what they could expect. I will review some of these commitments against what was achieved by the end of filing season on 2 December 2021.

  1. We committed SARS to expand the use of the auto-assessment service to more than 3 million taxpayers. This filing season SARS sent out 3.4 million auto assessments. Over 2.2 million taxpayers have accepted the auto assessment, with more than 1.5 million accepting without any changes. This represents a 74% acceptance rate of a new service offering. Regrettably, more than 630 000 taxpayers neither accepted nor edited their returns. SARS will be sending estimated assessments, to taxpayers that have not taken any action.
  2. We undertook to provide at least 8 out of every 10 taxpayers with an assessment outcome in under 5 seconds. This year 93% of assessments were issued in under 5 seconds. Last year it was 85%.
  3. We also committed to pay at least 7 out of every 10 taxpayers their refund if it is due, within 72 hours. This year SARS paid out refunds to 86% of taxpayers within 72 hours. Last year, 77.38% of refunds were paid within 72 hours. In all, we paid out more than R17 billion in refunds. The average refund was R11000.
  4. We undertook to conclude 7 out of every 10 verification audits within 21 days. We have missed this target of 70%, reaching only 67% of audits completed in this time-frame. Last year, we concluded 62% of audits within 21 working days, so there has been an increase.

Let me also add the following service information to indicate the volumes that SARS had to deal with this year. There were 1 million eBooking appointments made, before and after the branches opened, 1,6m taxpayers calls were answered by our Contact Centre agents, 2 million Help-You-eFile calls were made to the Contact Centre and there were over 500 000 walk-ins to the branches (taxpayers who did not have an appointment).

Despite the measurable progress, the organisation will have to work to continually improve our service culture and standards, expand taxpayer education offerings, and promote the online platforms and digital offerings we have created to interact with taxpayers, among other things.

Taxpayers must note that as previously announced, SARS will levy penalties from January 2022 where one of more returns are outstanding. Before the change in the legislation, SARS could only levy penalties where two or more returns were outstanding. Taxpayers are encouraged to submit all outstanding returns including those of previous years.

SARS has put in place channels to make it easy for taxpayers to comply and I urge all non-compliant taxpayers to comply and fulfil all outstanding obligations, and in that way contribute to entrenching the culture of voluntary compliance.

The Commissioner concluded by saying that, “Our progress in the rebuilding of SARS is slowly progressing. We are encouraged with the results so far, but will learn from the taxpayer experiences of this year, as well as our own mistakes, as we remain resolute in our efforts to modernise SARS.

“In pursuit of our strategic intent of voluntary compliance, it is important that we step up our efforts to provide certainty and clarity to taxpayers whilst working hard to make it easier to comply. At the same time our ability to detect and respond to non-compliance has shown marked improvement, but we must do more to deter and prosecute dishonest taxpayers and traders. These strategic objectives are implicit in our modernisation journey which increasingly will be built on a platform that augments human effort with data-driven insights and enabling technology,” the SARS Commissioner said.

For more information, please contact SARS at [email protected]

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10 December 2021Today, International Human Rights day, as the 16 Days of Activism draws to a close, SARS held a commemorative event with the Honourable Justice Edwin Cameron as the guest speaker to reflect and commemorate this significant day on our South African calendar.

“SARS, with 62.7% of our workforce being women, recognises the fact that women play an important role in society and in the nation. They play various roles from that of a valued employee, caring mother, a daughter, a colleague, a leader and many other critical roles in society. It is important for us all to show the women in our lives how much we support and care for them. We need to be mindful of the fact that women’s rights are human rights. As the world is moving to equality for both men & women when it comes to equal pay, equal social standing and equal voice, it is necessary and it requires all of us to remember we are all are humans and are equal and that respect should be given to everyone,” Commissioner Edward Kieswetter sai.

Today’s commemorative event solemnly began with a heartfelt testimonial by a brave SARS employee, who is a Gender Based Violence (GBV) survivor. She shared a personal account of her experience and how she overcame her abuse. Today she spoke out and lent her voice to many who are still silent, scared and fearful. This was a stark reminder of the fact that GBV has a face and that it affects people in a profound and a long lasting way.

Commissioner Kieswetter said “Whilst our mandate at SARS, as a Tax & Customs Authority is to collect all revenues due, ensure optimal compliance, & facilitate legitimate trade, we have made a clear choice that we want to be an organisation that has a strong higher purpose orientation and that our work has a transformative impact on society. We have also adopted a leadership model based on stewardship, and are committed to create a workplace where we are invested in each other’s wellbeing; that we show care and promote personal growth, allowing every employee to become the best version of themselves.”

He emphasised that SARS’ commitment to a “GBV free work environment” continues and would be redoubled. He went on to indicate that SARS has a “NO to GBV pledge” and that 100% of the organisation’s leadership had signed the pledge, and that more than 80% of the 12 364 employees had taken the pledge. The Commissioner pledged that SARS would be a key contributor to a GBV free Tax and Customs ecosystem.

Justice Cameron was acknowledged as one of those rare individuals who espouses the best possible example of the human spirit and rarer still lives it. Justice Cameron, in his inimitable style, gave a provocative and incisive recommendation of reform to the correctional system. He spoke boldly about the need to tackle GBV head on and to resist the temptation of resorting to platitudes and publicity stunts.  He highlighted a proposal that certainty of consequence is a higher and more efficient way of reforming offenders. Justice Cameron advocates that “It is not the severity of the punishment but the certainty of the punishment that is a deterrent.”

The Justice went on to point out the need for systematic reform and a targeted approach at every step in the value chain of responding to the scourge that should be victim-centred. He highlighted the need to eradicate stigma associated with being a victim of GBV. He went on to elaborate that the stigma should not be for the victim but for the offender and bystanders. He appealed that all at SARS should continue to grapple with the complexities of GBV every day, not only on Human Rights Day.

A recent opinion article1 authored by Justice Cameron titled “Harsh prison terms won’t solve the crisis of gender-based violence” was central to the dialogue whereby Justice Cameron emphasised “Sexual offences far exceed those that are reported. Why?”

“Stigma and shame unwarrantedly linger around survivors of gender-based violence. And the perpetrator is very often close to the survivor – or the survivor may depend on him for financial support. The idea that prisons and harsh sentences provide an answer that the heavy fist of law and order can help solve the problem, intuitively seems appealing. A ghastly problem needs a ghastly response.  But, sadly, very sadly, harsh prison terms are no solution – worse, too often they serve as a political stunt that distracts from the hard work we all have to do to start fixing the problem South Africa needs the certainty of arrest and prosecution, not long sentences, because that is what deters crime,” Justice Cameron said.

This year is the Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke. We can best honour this fighter for the rights of women through our commitment to the example she set.  She invested first in herself to be the best version of herself, and then, as she made progress, took the time to take other along and empower and enable them.

“I urge each of you to be the best version of yourself. Then to lead the change you wish to see. Take it upon yourself to change the world by making your space a safe space for women!  We don’t have all the answers, but our commitment to change our workplace to be free of violence and discrimination must be unequalled”, said Commissioner Kieswetter in concluding today’s event.

1 9 August 2021 | By Edwin Cameron | Harsh prison terms won’t solve the crisis of gender-based violence:https://www.groundup.org.za/article/why-a-carceral-state-wont-solve-the-crisis-of-gender-based-violence/

For more information, contact [email protected]

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Tshwane, 10 December 2021 – The Customs Division of South African Revenue Service (SARS), using modern risk detection systems and working with other law enforcement agencies, have seized illicit cigarettes, hookah-pipe tobacco and scrap metal with a total tax prejudice of R40-million.

The illegal cigarettes were detected at the Durban harbour, valued at R35-million, and in Polokwane, valued at R3-million. A consignment of illicit scrap metal with a Customs value of R160 000 was also detained in Polokwane.

The 432 boxes of hookah-pipe tobacco, valued at R 2-million, was detected in City Deep and was declared as sugar molasses being warehoused for export to Malawi. However, information indicated that the tobacco was intended for distribution on the local market.

Units of the SARS Customs and Illicit Trade divisions carried out the operations with the support of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).

The seizure of the illicit cigarettes at the Durban harbour took place after SARS used its modern risk and targeting systems to identify the consignments that were being imported by a repeat offender. The consignments were incorrectly declared as ceramic mugs and adhesive tape.

The consignment consisted of three containers which concealed 1800 master cases of RG cigarettes and 1245 master cases of foreign brands not registered for sale in South Africa.

In Polokwane, the SAPS intercepted a truck with cigarettes and alerted SARS officials. The Illicit Trade Unit of SARS searched the truck and found 276 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes with no SA diamond stamp, valued at R3-million.

Inside the truck, officials also found a consignment of scrap metal with a Customs value of R160 000. The truck entered the country via the Beit Bridge border post. Four suspects were arrested.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said importers and exporters of illicit products need to take note that SARS uses modernised systems for risk detection and identification of suspicious cargo.

“The use of the latest technology, big data, algorithms and machine learning to detect and deter non-compliance is one of our strategic objectives and falls within our mission to build a smart, modern SARS that is admired and trusted. We strive for voluntary compliance but will deal harshly with wilful non-compliance and criminal activity,” Mr Kieswetter added.

For more information, contact [email protected]

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9 December 2021 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS), as one of its strategic objectives is working hard to  increase and expand the use of data to improve the integrity of outcomes and enhance its capability to detect instances of non-compliance. SARS is encouraged by the early success, in the latter.

Using the data from various domestic and international sources, as input into  machine learning models, risk profiling and case selection, a number of trends have already been observed with positive outcomes in a number of instances, some of which were previously reported.

Examples of domestic third-party sources includes banks, retirement funds, medical insurance providers, the properties deeds office, the companies register, the national register of motor vehicles, the National Treasury central supplier data base, as well as the national population register. International data sources includes the automatic exchange of information on South Africans with off-shore financial assets from about 100 foreign jurisdictions, as well as several mutual administrative agreements with sister organisations.

Progress in respect of this strategic work includes:

SARS Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter acknowledges that “we still have a long way to go, but are encouraged that our strategic approach is beginning to show early impact”. He continues to advise that “SARS proceeds from the premise that most taxpayers are honest and want to fulfil their legal obligations. To these taxpayers we will work hard to assist them by providing clarity and easing the burden of compliance. Those, however who continue to defraud the tax system, must know that they do so at their own peril, as we make progress on the rebuilding and modernisation of the institution. As we observe Anti-Corruption Day, SARS remains committed to build on its capability to enforce the law and pursue those who willfully or criminally seek to break it.”

It is advisable that those taxpayers who are non-compliant with their tax obligations engage with SARS, via the voluntary disclosure program (VDP) to determine if their disclosure would qualify for the relief provided in the VDP.  Where the disclosure does not qualify for the relief, it is strongly recommended that the taxpayer concerned regularise their tax affairs via the various mechanisms that are currently available. The VDP programme has processed in excess of 1000 applications that has resulted in R2.5 billion in revenue for the current year.

“Our vision to build a smart modern SARS with unquestionable integrity is beginning to bear fruit,” said Commissioner Kieswetter

For further information, please contact SARS at [email protected]

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8 December 2021 – The South African Revenue Service Commissioner, Mr Edward Kieswetter, welcomed a 10-year prison sentence imposed on the Director of Oakbay Trading Mr DP Naik. Mr Naik was convicted for fraud and for contravening the Customs and Excise Act after he falsified export documents and diverted cigarettes back into the South African market without paying the excise and duties for import and export.

Mr Naik claimed that the company had exported cigarettes to Zambia. These exports were investigated and proved to be false exports. This crime was committed to evade duties and excise payable on the cigarettes.

He was convicted on five counts of fraud and for contravening section 80 (1) of the Customs and Excise Act. According to evidence presented in the Johannesburg Regional Court, the total prejudice to SARS is R18-million.

Mr Kieswetter praised the investigating team and the co-operation of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for securing a conviction and sentencing.

“SARS has repeatedly stated that the organisation will make it hard and costly for taxpayers and traders who wilfully break the law and undermine the SARS mandate of collecting revenue.

“We are committed to helping those taxpayers and traders who seek to comply voluntarily with their legal obligations. Several digital channels have been created over the years to make it easy and simple for such taxpayers to comply.

“This conviction and sentencing should send a clear signal that SARS has a zero tolerance for such criminal behaviour and will use all avenues at its disposal to pursue these criminals,” Mr Kieswetter said.

For more information, contact [email protected]

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8 December 2021 – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is aware of a number of incidents where fraudulent or unauthorised changes of tax practitioners and / or taxpayers’ eFiling profiles have been made with the sole intention to defraud SARS and affected taxpayers.

These fraudulent activities are carried out by individuals who gain access to eFiling profiles through phishing or other nefarious scams to change a legitimate taxpayer’s bank details to divert refunds. These individuals also submit fraudulent tax returns to generate refunds.

SARS takes all necessary steps to mitigate security breaches of our information systems and there is no evidence of the SARS systems being hacked, instead they remain secure.

In the past week, several changes were implemented to augment the integrity of the SARS systems. These changes include a process to advise tax practitioners when their access to taxpayer/client profiles are removed as well as an enhanced personal income tax and eFiling registration process, amongst others. They were done to make it difficult for criminal elements to obtain sensitive information and then perpetrate fraud.

To safeguard eFiling profiles, tax practitioners are urged to ensure that profile credentials are not shared within their practices or companies. All eFiling user access within practices or companies must be routinely reviewed and where required employee access should be revoked, particularly when an employee leaves the practice or company. The public is urged to always be alert for phishing scams that call for the sharing of sensitive identity and banking details.

Incidents of fraudulent or unauthorised changes of eFiling profiles can be reported to the SARS Anti-Corruption and Fraud Hotline on 0800 00 2870. Taxpayers and tax practitioners are urged not use social media platforms, such as Facebook, to report such incidents or disclose sensitive information.

SARS Commissioner Mr Edward Kieswetter sent a strong message to fraudsters engaged in this criminal enterprise of swindling honest taxpayers. He said, “Let me leave no one in doubt about SARS’ capacity and capability to deal a massive blow to those hell-bent on these criminal activities. Working with other law enforcement agencies, SARS will leave no stone unturned to hunt and find these criminals. This is no idle threat, be warned.”

For further information, please contact [email protected]

 

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