Pretoria, 7 August 2020 – Last week, Thursday 30 July, we launched the next phase of Filing Season 2020, namely the filing of individual tax returns. In keeping with the core principles of our Strategic Intent, we follow the approach of Voluntary Compliance. This means that we make the assumption that most taxpayers are honest, and want to comply. #YourTaxMatters.
For these taxpayers who honestly seek to comply, we work to help them understand their obligations and make it easy to comply. For millions, we aim to make the process almost seamless to fulfil their obligations. At the same time, we need to present a more credible threat of detection and act against taxpayers who are either negligent or those who wilfully or even criminally choose not to comply. Against this background, we:
A. Communicated our intent for the next phase of filing season:
1. To keep everyone safe during the time of COVID-19.
2. To remove the burden of compliance by introducing auto-assessment for more than 3 million taxpayers.
3. To facilitate and coach those who are required to file to move from physical filing at our SARS offices to convert to online filing through our enhanced e-Filing website or MobiApp.
4. To demonstrate care and concern for those who are truly unable to adopt one of our self-help channels.
B. Shared what we have done and will do to achieve our intent:
1. We will communicate continuously to provide you with clarity of your tax obligations through social media, direct messaging, SARS website and educational videos and webinars.
2. We have added more than 30 additional digital functions during the past 133 days of lockdown to expand our digital offering to all taxpayers and intermediaries to completely remove the need to visit a SARS office, but do everything online.
3. We have used a broad variety of data as well as algorithms to inform the design of our filing season and as well as optimise the experience for compliant taxpayers and detect any form of non-compliance.
4. The facility to phone a SARS Contact Centre and make use of SARS Help-You-eFile (HYeF) to compete your return online. We have enabled almost 1000 agents with a virtual platform to conduct interviews and assist taxpayers.
5. To provide for those who absolutely insist to visit a SARS office by appointment only in order to avoid long and undignified queues and practice social distancing.
6. In our SARS offices we will first try to assist you to file online, and only in the absolute last resort, we will file your return with one of our frontline staff.
7. At all times we will strive to honour our Service Charter commitments.
8. We will step up our efforts to detect and communicate to remind you when you have failed to comply and give you an opportunity to correct this.
9. We will act more decisively against taxpayers who remain non-complaint for any reason.
C. Most importantly, we made specific commitments as to what you could expect from us and now report how we are achieving against these, since the start of individual filing season:
1. Commitment: 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.
Achievement: We sent just over 3.1 million SMS’s by Friday, 31 July 2020. The initial feedback from taxpayers was extremely helpful and appreciated. Many taxpayers informed us that our SMS could have been clearer and we acknowledge it would have been clearer to have directed taxpayers to log on immediately to view the updated assessment information on the eFiling website or MobiApp. Valued, and constructive feedback from taxpayers helps us to continuously improve our service.
We are truly grateful for those taxpayers who alerted us to some issues and especially for the mostly positive spirit in which you worked with us to resolve matters. We are encouraged that more than 330 000 taxpayers accepted their auto-assessments to date. In total, we have received in excess of 680 000 submissions of which 560 000 or 82% are via the eFiling website and 118 000 or 17% are via the MobiApp.
We also confirm that we continue to receive updates to third party data and alert taxpayers who haven’t filed yet, that the amount of the SMS they have initially received may differ from the actual assessment issued when logging on to the eFiling website or MobiApp. This is mainly due to late or corrected data submissions of employee information by many Employers as well as third party data providers (e.g. Banks, Medical Scheme, and Retirement Funds). We confirm that once logged on, the assessment outcome is based on the latest updated information per our records.
We encourage taxpayers to take care and confirm the correctness of the auto-assessment and elect to accept and confirm, or should they need to, to edit their returns. To expedite the assessment, any additional information should be accompanied by supporting documents if you are requested to provide such through our specific information requests.
2. Commitment: To provide at least 8 out of every 10 taxpayers with an assessment outcome in under 3 seconds. This will largely be dependent on the infrastructure used by taxpayers e.g. speed of the internet connection used to connect to SARS.
Achievement: We remain focused and are confident that over the filing season we will achieve this aspiration. As of 10:00 this morning, 35% of taxpayers received an assessment outcome under 3 seconds, 60% in under 5 seconds. Importantly though, even with the initial positive response, and despite any connectivity constraints taxpayers themselves may have, we are encouraged that more than 80% of taxpayers would have received an assessment outcome in under 30 seconds.
The overwhelming initial response, combined with the fact that personal income tax filing overlapped with VAT filing, placed our systems under significant constraints and caused frustration especially for those submitting their VAT returns. We also apologize to our VAT taxpayers, who experienced slower than normal response times on Friday 31 July. We have increased our own computing capacity, and continue to work hard to live up to the high expectations we set for ourselves.
3. Commitment: Pay at least 7 out of every 10 taxpayers their refund if it’s due, within 72 hours if nothing else is required to be rectified such as a data mismatch, invalid or outstanding banking details, outstanding returns, other outstanding compliance aspects, etc.
Achievement: To date, we have paid 89.5% of refunds within 72 hours. 340 000 taxpayers received refunds to the value of R3.4bn. We are pleased that for so many taxpayers, their refund brings much-needed relief.
4. Commitment: Be specific when we request any outstanding information that is holding up your assessment.
Achievement: SARS alerted 50% fewer taxpayers compared to the same period last year. This was made possible by the significant enhancement of our risk methodology and increased used of data and technology. We are encouraged by those taxpayers who promptly responded to our verification notifications. Our figures indicate that 59% of taxpayers voluntarily adjusted their returns via the Request for Correction functionality after receiving our verification notifications.
5. Commitment: Conclude 7 out of every 10 audits, when an audit is required within 30 days; 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.
Achievement: To date, SARS concluded more than 5600 verifications. We remain focused on our Service Charter commitments and more updates will follow as the first 30 days elapse. We specifically acknowledge those taxpayers who promptly responded when requested to participate in verifications and are encouraged by the positive feedback received.
6. Commitment: Issue letters for late and outstanding returns and impose penalties as prescribed in law immediately after the closing dates. We also draw your attention to Government’s approach to the design of incentives and relief measures, which is premised on those who are tax compliant.
Achievement: This will follow after the respective due dates.
7. Commitment: Enforce the administrative steps in terms of the Tax Administration Act including the prosecution of those who fail to respond appropriately.
Achievement: This will follow as a result of our interventions and we encourage taxpayers to take utmost care not to file incorrect declarations.
8. Commitment: Name and shame those convicted of criminal offences. Whilst we are passionate to make it easy for taxpayers to comply, we are equally focused on stepping up our ability to detect non-compliance on all fronts.
Achievement: We will follow through with this, in line with and in addition to point 7 above.
For clarity, we confirm the following dates:
1 AUGUST – 31 AUGUST
Filing of returns commence through any of the SARS eChannels, namely eFiling website and MobiApp.
1 SEPTEMBER 2020 – 16 NOVEMBER 2020
Taxpayers who require assistance may call for assistance from 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 via our website, and will be assigned a slot to visit a SARS office. In the interest of social distancing, we want to discourage unscheduled visits to our offices. An unscheduled visit may lead you to end up in undesirable long queues, which we want to avoid as far as possible.
22 OCTOBER 2020
This is the closing date for taxpayers who elect to file at a SARS office – we remind you to please make an appointment should you need assistance.
16 NOVEMBER 2020
This is the closing date for taxpayers who file online using theeFiling website and MobiApp.
29 JANUARY 2021
This is the final date for Provisional Taxpayers to fulfil all their outstanding filing obligations.
2020 is a huge step towards a Re-Imagined SARS.
We have developed a comprehensive Change Management Programme with regular communication, educational material and other support during the entire filing season.
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.
Please try to file from the comfort of your home, If you need help use our help by calling our contact centre on 0800 00 7277.
And if you absolutely must, make an appointment.
Keep your social distance
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