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Launch of Filing Season: Statement by the SARS Commissioner

Launch of Filing Season: Statement by the SARS Commissioner

1 July 2021 – STATEMENT BY SARS COMMISSIONER EDWARD KIESWETTER ON THE LAUNCH OF THE TAX FILING SEASON FOR INDIVIDUALS & TRUSTS DELIVERED ON 1 JULY 2021

I would like to bid all South Africans a heartfelt good afternoon. Thank you for joining us and thank you especially to the various media platforms who are streaming this event to the public. Today we cross a fairly historic milestone. It’s the first ever launch of a completely virtual Tax Filing season. There are no physical branches open for in person public engagement. For at least the next 6 weeks, as we find ourselves in the cauldron of the third wave, all engagements with taxpayers will be through our on line digital offerings. More about this later.

A year ago, when we launched tax filing season, we were deep into an unprecedented, first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic had thrusted all of us into an evolving new way, which challenged us to adjust, adapt and be agile. SARS has stepped up and used this crisis to accelerate our own modernisation journey.  Today, on Day 462 since the initial Lockdown, the third wave is proving to be more devastating on lives and livelihoods. The delta corona virus variant appear to be significantly more transmissible than its predecessors, suggesting that South Africa will experience the worst of the three peaks. We find ourselves in a quite different world than a year ago.

Since 5 March 2020, we have experienced +1.97 million positive COVID-19 cases, and sadly taken leave of +60 647 family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues. We have not even begun to count the impact on the nation’s emotional, psychological wellbeing and livelihoods.  To all those infected and affected, including our own colleagues at SARS, I want to express our heartfelt compassion and condolences. Most of us are affected, so from our personal experience we can say that we are with you on this journey of heartache and grief.

This past Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would enter stage 4 lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of the corona virus. It is important that we protect ourselves and each other.

Taking the challenging context into account, SARS continue to render an essential service as defined in the Disaster Management Act, to serve its mandate to collect all revenues due, ensure optimal compliance with tax and customs legislation, and facilitate legitimate trade as well as to protect the domestic economy and society. If ever there was a time for us to step up and demonstrate our Higher Purpose, that time is now!

We remain committed to safeguard the public’s confidence in our tax administration system during these unprecedented times. Collectively, we will ensure that the tax administration system of our Republic continues to remain accessible to allow taxpayers to fulfil their obligations and to ensure the tax revenues due, are collected.

I take this opportunity to honour the many frontline workers in health, security, retail, hospitality, and other essential services who have, and continue to put themselves at risk daily to care for, and save lives, and support livelihoods. We also remember those who in this service, have succumbed. Included in this are many of our own staff within SARS. You are fondly remembered for your selfless service and ultimate sacrifice.

ECONOMIC CONTEXT
Once again, the impact on the economy from the weight of these restrictions will be felt. The economy has just begun to show encouraging signs of recovery after the initial impact of the pandemic, but we have quite a way to go before we return to the pre-COVID-19 levels.

  • The fiscal year (2021/22) began on a positive footing and showing encouraging signs, albeit from a low base. The positive start to the financial year 2021/22 is reflective of a continued economic performance in the period January to March 2021. The most recent data according to STATSSA, for January to March 2021, indicates that the economy grew by 4.6% q/q, which was ahead of market expectations of 3.2%.
  • The 4.6% growth reflects an almost 20% bounce in mining growth as well as a 7.4% increase in the financial services sector (compared to -5.7% and -0.2% declines respectively in Q4 2020).
  • The current trade surplus of R55 billion during May 2021 compared to the prior year R15 billion. The YTD trade balance for Jan – May 2021 shows a surplus of R202.6 billion compared to R10.6 billion for the same period last year. This has been driven by strong exports mainly in the primary sector (mining and agriculture). This has driven better than expected revenues from the mining and quarrying sector in particular.
  • Our focused efforts of creating an ecosystem that is conducive for voluntary compliance is starting to yield promising fruits, as such revenues for quarter 1 of our financial year continue on the positive trend established towards the last financial year i.e. 2020/21. We are particularly encouraged by the shift in voluntary compliance from the large business and international segment and we will continue to work with and through stakeholders in the SMME segment to improve voluntary compliance.
  • The unemployment rate of 32.6% announced by STATSSA is of concern and the fact that most of the unemployed are among young people, many of whom do not find themselves in any form of employment, education, or training. This, together with company closures, will also have a measurable negative impact on the tax base. The hospitality sector is the main casualty in this regard.
  • Whilst the impact of the third wave of COVID-19 on the economy is not yet fully understood and presents a downside risk, we will continue to observe and modify our outlook, however for now the tax revenue outlook for 2021/22 looks positive and we will spare no effort to collect the tax and customs revenue due to government.

TAX FILING SEASON 2021/22

I would now like to focus on the upcoming tax filing season. Earlier I had mentioned that our branches will be closed for at least the next 6 weeks for in-person visits. We are launching a completely virtual tax filing season today.

Allow me to share with you how this has been made possible as I also share with you important details of this tax filing season.

We are very aware, that for millions of individual taxpayers, this is not merely about submitting their income tax returns. It is the expectation of a tax refund. Indeed, we respect that for many, especially during such stressful times, the payment of refunds is a lifeline. Last year we paid out R29.4 billion to 2.38 million individual taxpayers, and this year will be no different.

SARS STRATEGIC INTENT

When we announced our 5 year strategy in 2020, we set out a clear strategic intent to follow an approach of Voluntary Compliance. This approach is based on our belief that most taxpayers are honest and simply want to fulfil their tax obligations with the least effort and cost.

The shift towards a virtual tax filing season is directionally aligned to our Vision of a “SMART MODERN SARS”, but importantly is also an accelerated response triggered by the current pandemic; in particular, our commitment to render an essential service whilst minimising the risk of transmission of the virus. The safety of our own employees as well as that of taxpayers is a high priority throughout the design of the tax filing season.

HOW DO WE INTEND TO GIVE EFFECT TO OUR STRATEGIC INTENT AND WHAT MAKES A VIRTUAL TAX FILING SEASON POSSIBLE

It is possible because of our single-minded commitment to our strategic intent of voluntary compliance as framed in the 9 strategic objectives. Allow me to take you through each.

  1. We remain committed to provide ongoing clarity and certainty for taxpayers to understand their obligations.  In the lead-up to the tax filing season we have:
    1. Ongoing messaging via directed messages, social media, SARS website, and educational videos and webinars – “How To” YouTube videos.
    2. Simplified letters – specify what information is outstanding when further verification is required.
    3. Publishing external guides on how to access and use SARS products.
    4. Chat with the SARS Artificial Intelligence Chatbot, Lwazi.
  1. We continue to strive to make it easy for honest taxpayers to fulfil their obligations. A significant percentage of our resources are directed to achieve this. For this tax season we are pleased to announce a number of our enhanced offerings:

    SARS has dedicated 24x7x365 digital self-help channels where we have further enhanced our current channels and added additional channels:

    1. SARS Website – for information and educational content, book an appointment, how to claim for home office expenses
    2. SARS eFiling – if you are required to register for Personal Income Tax can be done via eFiling
    3. SARS MobiApp – your entire personal income tax journey for filing season can be completed using the MobiApp.
    4. SARS Online Query System (SOQS) – access via the SARS website e.g. to request a Tax Reference Number or upload Supporting Documents.
    5. SMS service (47277) – SMS your ID and a keyword for the following automated services: Booking, Tax Number, Balance, Required to File.
    6. Lwazi (ChatBot) – Request e.g. Tax number, Statement of Account, Audit and Refund Status.
    7. On our Toll-free number you can make bookings, request a call back and if you still need assistance in filing your return you can request help by logging on to eFiling, calling the Contact Centre and activating the Help-You-eFile (HYeF) service. An agent will co-browse with you to help you submit your return.
    8. Introducing convenient ways of engagement such as a call back functionality.
    9. Our appointment booking system for a telephonic engagement can be made using a smart device or first time with a normal mobile phone (non-smart device) by simply sending an SMS to SARS at no cost to the taxpayer.
    10. Outreach activities through Mobile Tax Units and Workplace visits to help employees to file (companies with big numbers of employees) – this was not fully deployed in 2020 due to COVID-19.

As a last resort, we will provide assistance at our branches (once physical visits resume) on an appointment basis, whilst taking care to observe social distancing, hygiene and related protocols that ensures the safety of our staff as well as taxpayers – we really want to discourage taxpayers from arriving without an appointment since we want to avoid the indignity of long queues, as well as the risk of exposure to infection.

Provide coaching to facilitate and assist taxpayers to convert from manual filing to our on line digital platform. We have made a number of helpful enhancements to our e-Filing platform and Mobi-App feature.

Once branch visits resume, we will also first attempt to covert taxpayers to our digital offerings with the help of our frontline staff.

    1. Last year we converted more than 450k taxpayers from branch filing to on-line filing as well as assisting over 180k taxpayers by appointment.
    2. These efforts ensured that more than 4 million previous branch interactions were migrated to our digital platform.

Offering an auto-assessment to more than 3 million taxpayers. This means for these taxpayers, we will present an assessment outcome based on the information we already have access to. These taxpayers may accept the SARS assessment or edit their returns should they have additional information to supplement their declaration.

  1. We are making steady progress to improve our capability to detect and respond to non-compliance. Some encouraging examples of this work resulted in:
    • Detected fraudulent attempts to obtain a refund whereby by R57 billion (all taxes) and specifically R5 billion for Personal Income Tax had been prevented. We caution taxpayers who falsely understate income or overstate expenses. SARS will, with increasing our rigour, impose penalties as well as institute potential criminal prosecution.
    • Detected more than 26k individuals who had economic activity in excess of R1m were not registered for tax – these cases are currently being risk profiled and entered into the investigative process.
    • Our newly launched High Wealth Individual Segment, has begun engagements through letters issued to 275 wealthy individuals who have financial assets abroad – this is only the start.
    • Enforcement action against non-compliant employers:
      • We are collaborating with the NPA in a joint-project to address the deliberate non-compliance of employers
      • We have had successful convictions 3 PAYE cases and 11 Income Tax cases over the past two months

Home office expenses, SARS will issue a statement later today to remind taxpayers to carefully consider claims for work from home expenses. It is important to note that the law has not changed. To date, SARS has received 1 565 tax returns with home office expenses claimed of which 1 306 has been stopped for verification audit and the current risk identification rate is 50% in this area. We want to caution taxpayers to correctly and truthfully complete their returns as this behaviour will be detected.

  1. People – we continuing to rebuild our human capability to restore some of the capacity eroded in the last decade

  2. We have progressively increased our remote working capability from an initial 3000 staff at the beginning of the lockdown to current in excess of to 10 000 (80%) staff that are enabled to work remotely – these include our core functional areas such as our Service Channels, Debt Management, Compliance, Back Office Processing. Specifically we have enabled 2021 remote virtual agents in our service channels of Branches and Contact Centre.
  3. SARS embarked on a recruitment drive in order to replace 570 critical skills (of which 200 are earmarked for graduates) that we lost over the years.  To date we can confirm that 140 of these positions are close to finalization and are in the various stages of our appointment process.
  4. I am pleased to announce that we are welcoming 86 graduates today to start their training programme with SARS, 26 of these will take part in the CA training programme that SARS has. The next cohort of graduates (100) will be onboarded in November 2021.
  5. Internally, SARS has reskilled 250 service agents to become proficient in more compliance related activities, such as verifications and audits.
  6. To enrich SARS knowledge and experience pool, SARS joined hands with SAICA and the CEO, Mr. Freeman Nomvalo, have agreed to establish a mutually beneficial partnership to build capability in SARS.
  7. As part of its process of ensuring that it has the requisite skills to fulfil its mandate, SARS has reached out to the SAICA to assist with recruiting specialists with tax and forensic experience to help capacitate the organisation by mobilising resources from within the SAICA’s Chartered Accountancy membership base. A statement will be issued today.
  8. SARS has been stepping up its efforts to deal with internal corruption. Since 2019, we have completed 553 internal corruption cases which lead to 51 resignations and 55 dismissals with 10 criminal convictions of our own staff in the past year.
  9. The increasing use of data has become an indispensable asset – effectively the new gold for SARS.

We continue to expand our data sets whilst enhancing our capability to employ data science to extract value from structured and instructed data. In the past year we have further developed our competency in developing machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to augment human effort. These efforts has enabled us to provide the auto-assessment functionality as well as the examples of the detection of non-compliance highlighted above. Increasingly it is about improving the overall integrity of our outcomes. To give an idea, we currently draw on:

  1. As a foundational input into our auto assessments, the collaboration with employers and providers of third party data, namely financial institutions, retirement funds and medical schemes provided us with more than 132 million data records this year (PY 123 million) – to reflect the scale of these data records it is equivalent to roughly 2 terabytes of data.  For the geeks this is a million million units of information or 10^12 (2^40 for my friends who like me have learnt to count in binary in their youth).
  2. In addition, we draw on information from the national population register, companies register, deeds register, national vehicle register and other asset registers.
  3. In terms of the OECD’s Automated Exchange of Information programme, which entails the exchange of information we have increased cooperation with 4 more countries now giving us total 104 countries that we exchange data information with. In addition, to this we are improving our mutual administrative agreements with tax and customs authorities which includes capacity building and information sharing protocols. This data exchanges are proving especially useful as we step up our compliance programme for high wealth individuals.

 

  1. With the SARS modernisation programme back on track, we continue to invest in our technology platform, working towards a goal where 100% of all taxpayer obligations can be performed digitally. COVID-19 proved to be a significant catalyst towards this ambition.
  1. With the increase in taxpayers registering and adopting self-help digital platforms, coupled by our efforts to enable more online services volumes have grown significantly and continue to grow. We strive to continually predict & monitor volume impacts on our systems and ensure that we can manage such volumes by upgrading our ICT infrastructure for critical systems.
  2. Subsequent to the decision by ADOBE to stop the usage of ADOBE Flash Player we suffered a setback which hampered service to our taxpayers. We managed to solve this service interruption by introducing a secure SARS website for processing any forms that were impacted. We are happy to announce that all forms for major tax types such as Personal Income Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Trusts, VAT, PAYE & Excise, Tax Compliance Status forms as well as our registration form have now been migrated to the latest HTML5 technology and can be accessed normally on eFiling. A few forms with very low volumes may still be accessed through the web browser provided by SARS and will be migrated by November this year.
  3. We developed more than 30 additional offerings in the first 100 days of lockdown. Subsequently we have introduced an additional 15 enhancement to improve the taxpayer engagement with SARS.

The fact that we could convert more than 450k traditional branch filers onto our digital platform, and removed some 4 million previously branch interactions had been migrated to our digital offerings has proven to be defining. During this time of COVID-19 it supports social distancing, but beyond the pandemic, provides legacy infrastructure towards the modernisation of SARS.

  1. For this filing season key enhancements introduced:
  2. Enhanced Auto Assessment process:
    1. More detailed Simulated Results of Assessment (sim01) to sees full income, deductions, contributions, data used from third parties and assessment outcome.
    2. Taxpayer can also view full return.
  3. SMS functionality – can be used as follows:
  4. File (space) ID number to request if you need to file.
  5. Balance (space) ID number to request account balance.
  6. Mytax (space) ID number to request tax reference number.
  7. Booking (space) ID number to request eBooking.
  • Submission on MobiApp, eFiling and branch updated with all legal changes.
  1. Branch queue management capability to register for eFiling and do Auto Assessment without even having to see an agent.
  2. We are also committed and strive to be better stewards of the public resources with which we are entrusted, but cannot do this on our own.

  3. SARS has embarked on a cost reconfiguration process in the 2020/21 financial year to ensure that the resources are channelled to areas that support the Strategic intent and that will realise Vision 2024 and beyond. Resources was availed to enable the various ICT enhancements deployed to enabled the continued service to taxpayers during Covid-19 lockdown that has seen significant benefits and forms part of the basis that the 2021 Filing season can be launched on a digital platform. The reconfiguration process mainly include a reduction in physical footprint in the SARS Head Office space but also in certain regional offices based on a needs assessment.
  4. SARS also continuously emphasised with every opportunity and on every platform available the impact of the funding reductions over the last number of years on the ability of the organisation to effectively and efficiently delivery on its mandate. The result was that National Treasury increased the ENE allocation with R3bn over the MTEF period (2021/22 – 2023/24).
  5. Understanding that we need to improve the integrity of the entire tax ecosystem, we continue to work with industry bodies, registered controlling bodies and other tax and customs intermediaries. Tax Practitioners play an important role in our quest towards voluntary compliance.
  6. Tax Practitioners form an integral part of the tax system wherein the facilitate transactions with SARS on behalf of their clients and provide professional advice on tax related matters.
    1. In terms of legislation these practitioners are required to belong to a Recognised Controlling Body (RCB) and be subject to certain minimum criteria and a code of conduct.
    2. As part of ensuring broader compliance with legislation, SARS has been working with the RCB’s to ensure that Practitioners are Compliant and are held to account in respect of their tax affairs as well as their clients tax affairs.
  • SARS is gratified by the response of the RCB’s in ensuring that tax compliance is crucial for their members.
  1. While in the early stages of being considered, SARS does recognise that given the importance of tax practitioners the value proposition in respect of practitioners needs to be reviewed with a view to reducing the cost of compliance where certain standards are adhered to.
  2. As trusted stakeholders that we work with and through SARS urges tax practitioners to show greater level of compliance in their own tax affairs and that clients.
  1. The Tax Ombud plays a crucial role in SARS achieving its strategic objectives. SARS has seen a significantly improved relationship with the Ombud over the last year, and will be working together with the Ombud to ensure that Service failures flowing from this filing season are addressed with the urgency they deserve.
  2. We want to thank government who employs over 2 million employees (12% of individual taxpayers) for diligently filing and paying on time and we would encourage all spheres of government to continue with this exemplary compliance levels as the largest employer in the country.
  3. All our efforts contribute to the level of confidence the public has in SARS and the tax system.

SARS launched a public opinion survey. The primary objective of this public opinion survey to understand and track the sentiment and opinions of the South African public around paying taxes. This includes the views of registered taxpayers (RTPs) and non-registered taxpayers (NRTPs).

The objective of this survey was to establish:

  1. The drivers of taxpayer and trader compliance from the public perspective through a survey of randomly selected individuals
  2. A South African ‘attitude to compliance’ index on the public’s attitudes, motivations and behaviour towards tax compliance
  3. The impact of the power of authority in driving public opinion towards tax compliance.

The research was done with though Quantitative interviews which includes, 3000 interviews, as well as 30 Qualitative interviews. Audience included people in the fields of academia, business, politics, public service and special interest groups. This was done across all provinces; race groups and age groups.

We will in coming weeks share with the South African public some insights on what the survey has found and recommendations on how we plan to implement those. We are pleased to note that many of your recommendations have begun to be implemented as part of overall strategic intent and vision 2024.

Our objective is to ensure a safe work environment for our own employees, and to create the enabling environment for all taxpayers to fulfil their filing obligation from the comfort and safety of their home.

THEREFORE, YOU CAN EXPECT SARS:

  1. To invite more than 3 million taxpayers to participate in the expanded use of our auto assessment feature and trust the majority will find it easy to use. Last year, we auto-assessed more than 83% of taxpayers to whom we offered this proposition, against our target of 80%. This year, we have increased our target to 85%.
  2. To provide at least 8 out of every 10 taxpayers with an assessment outcome in under 5 seconds. This will be dependent on the infrastructure used by taxpayers e.g. speed of the network used to connect to SARS. Last year, just over 85% of all assessments were processed in less than 5 seconds. We will retain the target of 8 of out 10 for this year.
  3. Pay at least 7 out of every 10 taxpayers their refund if it is due, within 72 hours if nothing else is required – a data mismatch; incorrect or outstanding banking details, outstanding returns, other compliance aspects. Last year, 77.38% of refunds were paid within 72 hours and we retain the same target of 7 out of 10 for this year.
  4. Be specific when we request any outstanding information that is holding up your assessment. We kept to our commitment and implemented specific letters when requesting supporting documents for most scenarios that arose from our risk detection mechanism.
  5. Conclude 7 out of every 10 verification audits within 21 days, when a verification is required, alternatively improve our communication with you to manage expectations. This will be dependent on taxpayer participation and we urge you to be responsive when requested to submit additional information in time. Last year, we concluded 62.02% of audits within 21 working days, mainly because of the initial phase of the COVID lockdown, during which we were still ramping up the ability to maintain similar production throughput in a virtual context. For this year, we will step up our efforts to achieve the target.
  6. Issue letters for late and outstanding returns and impose penalties as prescribed in law immediately after the closing dates. I also draw your attention to Government’s approach to the design of incentives and relief measures, which was designed on the premise and apply only to those who are tax compliant. We want to assure complaint taxpayers, that penalties for non-compliance will be levied and collected without fear or favour. The PAYE penalty regime will be implemented from July 2021.
  7. Enforce the administrative steps in terms of the Tax Administration Act including the prosecution of those who fail to respond appropriately.
  8. Name and shame those convicted for criminals offences – Whilst we are passionate to make it easy for taxpayers to comply, we are equally focused to step up our ability to detect non-compliance on all fronts.

TURNING TO THE FILING SEASON DATES:

For clarity I confirm the following dates:

As communicated before, since 1 April 2021 we have worked hard with employers and providers of third party information. Whilst we appreciate the efforts and acknowledge those who complied and submitted on time, have a long way to go achieve voluntary compliance – we had 622 159 Employers on our register, with only 454 884 that filed monthly PAYE returns (EMP 201’s) during the year, whilst only 298 905 Employers complied with the bi-annual reconciliation submissions (Emp501’s). We reiterate that whilst employers are registered for PAYE, it remains compulsory to file returns reconciliations, until such time as you have de-registered, for instance, when your company becomes dormant. Similarly, we found that some employers revised their submissions after the commencement of individual filing. As we use third party data to pre-populate individual tax returns and calculate auto-assessments, this may unfortunately result in a negative experience for those individual taxpayers who were employed by non-compliant employers.

Sadly, we have continued to note and detected several attempts to defraud to us in terms of disability claims, rental losses, PAYE credits and business losses. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO BE EXTRA CAUTIOUS THIS YEAR, AS WE CONTINUOUSLY STEP UP OUR DETECTION AND RISK MANAGEMENT CAPABILITIES. We will specifically focus on new risk dynamics introduced because of COVID-19, such as expenses relating to work-from-home arrangements, donations to the likes of the Solidarity Fund as well as travel expense claims that should in all probability be much lower due to lockdown.

1 JULY – 23 NOVEMBER 2021


SARS will continue to closely monitor taxpayer participation during the filing season, and periodically issue SMS’s to encourage those taxpayers who are still required to file, as well as those who are in the automated assessment population that may be below the threshold to file, but third party data indicate liability or a refund that may be due to them. This will start towards the middle of July and be an ongoing process for the duration of filing season, to encourage participation and promote compliance.

You will note that we do our best to smooth production volumes and the high number of returns filed over the past couple of days speaks for itself – a peak during the first week or two of filing season is a recurring trend as it benefits people who are in a refund position, hence we only start with targeted SMS campaigns after the initial peak.

Should a taxpayer feel that they have additional information they may choose to edit and their return on eFiling or MobiApp. They will be able to use the tax calculator to get a sense of their assessment outcome, subject to the completeness of information.

Taxpayers who require assistance may call for assistance to our Contact Centres for completing their tax returns with the assistance of an Agent.

As an absolute last resort, taxpayers may make an appointment over the phone or on our appointment facility on our website, and will be assigned a slot to visit a branch office once our branches are opened.

In the interest of social distancing we want to discourage unscheduled visits to our offices when we open in August 2021, but also you may end up in undesirable long queues which we want to avoid as far as possible.

23 NOVEMBER 2021

This is the closing date for non-provisional taxpayers to file a return or accept their Auto Assessment.

31 JANUARY 2022

This is the final date for Provisional Taxpayers to fulfil all their outstanding filing obligations.

The above efforts are integral to our strategic objectives and the aspirational Vision of building a “SMART MODERN SARS WITH UNQUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY, THAT CAN BE TRUSTED AND ADMIRED.”

We were making steady progress, when along came an invisible and stubborn Corona virus, presenting itself as an invincible and invisible force, and placed us on an unprecedented path into unchartered waters. It forced us to the drawing board for an appropriate response.

The pandemic is stretching governments around the world to manage the complex contending outcomes of health, psycho-social and economic effects. We cannot simply leave this to government. Every single one of us must take concrete steps such as social distancing, the regular washing of hands and wearing of masks to help stop the spread of this contagious virus. We also have to be considerate of others. Thankfully, many South Africans have shown a level of solidarity not seen before.

We understand that for many taxpayers, tax matters are not always easy. Your tax matters can sometimes be one of your biggest headaches. After diligently contributing your taxes throughout the year, mostly through the employer payroll, millions of taxpayers still must complete the annual tax filing obligation. We remain committed to make this a seamless experience for most individual taxpayers who diligently and honestly seek to fulfil their obligation. At the same time, we want to make it hard and costly for non-compliant taxpayers and criminals. It is not right that these fraudsters get away, and we would like to see more of them face charges and be brought to book.

During this terrible pandemic, more than ever before your tax matters, for without it Government would not have the resources to take care of the poorest and most vulnerable in society on whom the worst toll is exacted. Millions who depend on a social grants would otherwise be destitute. The additional social relief grant, though limited, prevents certain suffering and hunger for millions more. For about 10 million school children the daily meal provided is the main, if not only nutrition.

Your taxes also allows government to employ the dedicated and selfless healthcare workers and other frontline staff in every sector of the public service. Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, Policemen, Soldiers, are among those who confront this corona virus every day. They place their lives at risk as they wage war against the pandemic.

So on all accounts – THANK YOU! #YourTaxMatters!

What COVID-19 did, was to cause us to step up the pace at which we are modernizing our systems.

We will not be daunted by the fear of failure. We would rather fail through trying harder than become paralysed to inaction. As we accelerate the rate of change within SARS, we will occasionally still drop the proverbial ball. But we do continue to listen to the voice of the taxpayer, and seek to understand the experience you have with SARS. We actively solicit your feedback through social media, calls, and the mainstream media. We conduct surveys and interviews to better understand your frustrations and preferences. We commit to do better continuously.

Our objective is to ensure a safe work environment for our own employees, and to create the enabling environment for all taxpayers to fulfil their filing obligation from the comfort and safety of their home.

CLOSING REMARKS….

2021 continues to be a step towards a Re-Imagined SARS.

We remain appreciative to the commitment by millions of individual taxpayers who continue to honour the spirit of Voluntary Compliance and fulfil their obligation of their own volition. You make our work significantly more bearable. THANK YOU. We have developed a comprehensive Change Management Programme with regular communication, educational material, and other support during the entire filing season. We will continue to work hard to support your honest intent to comply.

To those individuals, employers or intermediaries who continue to remain non-compliant, whether negligently, wilfully or criminally, we urge you to consider your obligation with greater diligence, care and honesty. Failing to do this will be at your peril. As our rebuilding work gathers momentum, our ability to detect and prosecute will eventually lead us to you.

To everyone, we ask that you please bear with us as we seek to balance the fulfilment of the SARS mandate and your tax obligation with the need for managing the health risks and limit the risk of transmission of the corona virus. When we drop the ball, we remain committed to learn and continually strive to do better.

Lastly our sincere wish is that each of you submit your returns and fulfil other related obligations from the comfort and safety of your home. Our enabling platforms make this eminently possible.

Familiarise yourself with our enhanced SARS eFiling or SARS MobiApp,

If you need help use our help by calling our Contact Centre on 0800 00 7277,

And if you absolutely must,

Make an appointment via our online booking system or by SMS 47277,

Keep your social distance,

Wear your mask and wash your hands,

Stay safe,

And comply!

#YourTaxMatters!

Thank you & stay safe!

Edward CHR Kieswetter

Commissioner: SARS

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