New tax services, quicker returns
3 July 2012
South Africa's tax season for individuals opened on Sunday, with new services and technologies available to make the process of annual filing even quicker and easier.
Taxpayers can expect quicker returns, with assessments now expected to take an average of three minutes and refunds to taxpayers to be paid into their accounts the next day. Those who visit SA Revenue Service (Sars) branches will leave with their assessments.
According to Sars Commissioner Oupa Magashula, South Africa has seen one of the quickest uptakes of electronic filing (e-filing) of tax returns since the service was introduced in 2006, with more than 99% electronic submissions - either through e-filing or through a Sars branch - in 2011.
"Only 22 000 manual returns were submitted last year," Magashula said at Monday's launch of the 2012 tax season in Pretoria.
E-filing for tablets, mobiles; 'co-browsing'
Magashula said final testing was under way on new services, including a new e-filing application for iPads and smart phones and a mobi site for mobile phones, which would come online within the next six or seven weeks.
Taxpayers are invited via Facebook and www.sars.gov.za to take part in the pilot service.
For taxpayers with internet access who feel unsure about e-filing on their own, Sars has developed a Help-You-eFile service offering real-time call centre assistance to help them file electronically without having to visit a branch office.
The "co-browsing" service will allow the call-centre agent to see exactly what the taxpayer is seeing and doing on their computer in real time.
Non-provisional taxpayers who submit their returns via e-filing or at a Sars branch have until 23 November to make their submissions, while provisional taxpayers who submit their returns via e-filing have until 31 January. Taxpayers submitting manual returns via post or a Sars drop box have until 28 September to file.
Registered taxpayer numbers have doubled
The number of people registered as taxpayers in South Africa has doubled in the past two years, according to Business Report, growing from 6-million in 2010 to 13.7-million in March 2012.
While many registered taxpayers fall below the income tax threshold, an estimated 12-million individual taxpayers contributed R251.6-billion to South Africa's revenue last year.
Speaking at Monday's launch, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan thanked the public "for their loyalty to the country, enabling government to do what it has done in the past 18 years - some of which could have been done differently, and some which could have been done better".
The relationship between taxpayers and the government is crucial in order to have a viable democracy, Gordhan said.
"Governments and the fiscal strength of governments play a very important part in sustaining both the government itself and the economy more generally.
"That relationship between taxpayer and government, and government and the citizen generally, is a crucial relationship that we need to sustain if we are going to have a viable and meaningful democracy," Gordhan said.
"What we are trying to generate is the right kind of values in our society, values that say we must be honest about what we earn, values that say that we must declare honestly, values which say that we recognise that our taxes are going to contribute to the wellbeing of other South Africans that are not as well off as we are.
"There's the value of solidarity that we must be mindful of," Gordhan said.