SARS see record tax returns in 4 hours

Edenvale – By 10:30am on Monday, just over 18 000 employees had filed their tax returns, and the majority of them had done so online or via the SA Revenue Service (SARS) smart phone App.

So many people filed, that the SARS website was temporarily down due to the unexpected large volumes of people who filed as soon as the e-filling service opened at 6am.

When the 2013 tax season for employees opened on Monday, July 1, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula took to the streets to raise awareness to taxpayers on why they needed to pay tax, how easy it is to file their taxes and how the government uses the public purse responsibly.

Nene and Magashula also spent some time chatting to Gautrain commuters in a bid to raise tax awareness, and also found a taxpayer who was busy filing his returns via his smart phone.

On his arrival at SARS’s Edenvale branch in eastern Johannesburg just before 10am, Gordhan asked Sbusiso Tshabalala, a taxpayer from Thembisa in Ekurhuleni, if he liked paying his taxes, and why.

Tshabalala said he was also happy with the level of assistance he received from the SARS staff, and said his waiting time in the queue was only 10 minutes.

“I am happy because I do see a lot of progress when I pay my taxes. There is less corruption and I can see how the [social] grants that are given to the elderly people and the children are helping.”

Gordhan said the importance of raising awareness could not be overstated.

“It is good to have South African citizens who are aware firstly, that it is necessary to pay taxes as it keeps our government going and gets public services delivered to our people.

“Secondly, they are very happy with the kind of service they are receiving at SARS in terms of waiting times and the assistance they are getting. And thirdly, because of their understanding of where their taxes are spent and how those taxes benefit different categories of South Africans. And that is the kind of awareness we would like to create.”

After interacting with Tshabalala and other tax payers, Gordhan told journalists that the high number of people who had filed by Monday was an indication that awareness amongst taxpayers had increased and that more employees and employers were declaring their income.

He said in the 2012 tax season, 5.66 million people submitted their tax returns on time – which was a 16.4% improvement from 2011 – and that the outstanding 1.4 million returns from the previous year had also been submitted.

Gordhan said SARS had set its revenue collection target to R898 billion for the 2013 tax season – which is a 9% target increase on average compared to previous years. Government expenditure currently stands at just over R1 trillion.

“The more tax we can collect, the less we have to have to borrow, and the more we will get to build houses and invest in infrastructure.

“It also ensures that we can decrease the deficit figure of 4.6%,” he said.

When Gordhan tabled national budget earlier this year, he raised the annual tax threshold from R120 000 to R250 000 – meaning that those whose gross annual income is below R250 000 are no longer required to submit tax returns.

On Monday, Gordhan reiterated this policy shift, which will come as good news to taxpayers.

The deadline for taxpayers who submit their returns manually by post or by dropping them off at a SARS drop box is 27 September 2013.

Non-provisional taxpayers – those who submit a tax return and earn and income from one or more employer – have until 22 November 2013 to submit their returns.

For the provisional taxpayers – who form a smaller segment of the tax base and are individuals with other forms of income like investments, income from business activities, rental income, royalties or from company directorships, must file their returns by 31 January 2014.

Gordhan also issued a stern warning to tax dodgers and tax fraudsters, and said law enforcement agencies would take action in line with the law to deal with those that did not comply.

R4 billion in tax penalties was collected last year from taxpayers who either submitted their returns late or did not submit them at all.

Gordhan also said there were on-going discussions between finance ministers from G22 countries on improving tax collections from global companies that did not pay taxes from their offshore investments. –