SARS Efforts to improve e-Filing pay off

With tax season ending in October, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has made it clear that it will increase its focus on enforcing taxpayer compliance. At the same time, the organisation has also made significant progress in simplifying the filing process for taxpayers.

The recent enhancements to SARS’ online platform and tax refund process are already starting to bear fruit.

The new e-Filing platform that SARS launched at the start of July has proven to be significantly more user-friendly and easier to navigate. At the same time, we have also seen very positive outcomes for taxpayers claiming for tax refunds, with many taxpayers seeing their refunds being released within 48 hours.

Unnecessary delays of income tax refunds seem to be less common this year. In the instances where we have seen refunds being delayed, it has been for valid reasons. Most often, the delays relate to the verification of information disclosed or invalid banking details. Most refunds are cleared fairly quickly once these issues have been resolved, and only in cases where an audit is still in progress, will refunds be delayed for longer periods.

Similarly, communicating with SARS on specific problems can still be tricky, but taxpayers are seeing some improvements. The SARS Call Centre can be a challenging channel to communicate with SARS, but the branch offices tend to deliver more fruitful results in obtaining the guidance and information required.

These results should inspire some confidence in the organisation’s ability to streamline its service over the coming months. Implementing the new e-Filing platform is no small project for SARS, and naturally, 

an enhancement of this magnitude does experience teething problems in its initial stages. One of the early issues was that users did not have access to income tax assessments and account statements. However, that was resolved relatively quickly, which is reassuring. I would encourage the public to be patient and remain positive while the changeover to the new interface is in progress.

It is now also the responsibility of South African taxpayers to do their part. SARS is stepping up its enforcement of penalties for non-compliance issues such as outstanding returns and non-disclosure of various income streams, including but not limited to the disclosure of capital gains and cryptocurrency-related transactions. It is therefore vital for taxpayers to keep accurate records, and to be entirely open and honest about their earnings when they file their returns.

ZANÈ GERBER: Manager, Tax Compliance