A summary of the 2021 tax filing season for individuals has revealed that over 4.3 million non-provisional tax returns had been submitted to date, a 46% increase from the previous season.
This was on Monday revealed by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, in a statement.
In it, the Commissioner thanked all individual non-provisional taxpayers who filed their income tax returns by the extended deadline of 2 December 2021. He also extended similar gratitude to all intermediaries and stakeholders who support the strengthening of the tax ecosystem.
“Such voluntary compliance reinforces our belief that most taxpayers want to do the right thing and meet their legal obligations. We are working very hard to make this important task easy and simple by providing clarity and certainty and whilst expanding online channels through which taxpayers can transact with our organization.
“Despite many challenges, including COVID-19 restrictions, load shedding and our own internal limitations, we are pleased that our strategic intent of promoting voluntary compliance is gradually gaining momentum as can be seen in the statistics and trends for this filing season which are very encouraging under the circumstances,” he said.
He said the increase in voluntary compliance was made possible through a virtual filing season, which aimed to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on taxpayers, staff and other citizens.
“Coincidentally, the shift towards a virtual tax filing season is directly aligned to our vision of building a smart, modern SARS that is trusted and admired.”
Of those, over 2.6 million were submitted via eFiling, an increase of 7%, with 523 659 returns submitted via the MobiApp, a 59% increase.
Over 306 000 returns were submitted via our branches, this was an encouraging 15% decrease. SARS agents assisted taxpayers through virtual appointments, or later in branches after they reopened on 16 August.
The revenue collector during the season also introduced an SMS service, which allowed taxpayers to book an appointment, request their tax number and check if they needed to submit a return.
At the launch of the filing season on 1 July, SARS made several commitments to taxpayers about what they could expect.
Kieswetter said he would review some of these commitments against what was achieved by the end of filing season on 2 December 2021.
“We committed SARS to expand the use of the auto-assessment service to more than 3 million taxpayers. This filing season SARS sent out 3.4 million auto assessments. Over 2.2 million taxpayers have accepted the auto assessment, with more than 1.5 million accepting without any changes.
“This represents a 74% acceptance rate of a new service offering. Regrettably, more than 630 000 taxpayers neither accepted nor edited their returns. SARS will be sending estimated assessments, to taxpayers that have not taken any action,” he said.
In the 2021 tax season, SARS undertook to provide at least 8 out of every 10 taxpayers with an assessment outcome in under 5 seconds. This year 93% of assessments were issued in under 5 seconds. Last year it was 85%.
“We also committed to pay at least 7 out of every 10 taxpayers their refund if it is due, within 72 hours. This year SARS paid out refunds to 86% of taxpayers within 72 hours. Last year, 77.38% of refunds were paid within 72 hours. In all, we paid out more than R17 billion in refunds. The average refund was R11 000.
“We undertook to conclude 7 out of every 10 verification audits within 21 days. We have missed this target of 70%, reaching only 67% of audits completed in this time-frame. Last year, we concluded 62% of audits within 21 working days, so there has been an increase,” reads the statement.
Despite the measurable progress, the Commissioner said the organisation would have to work to continually improve its service culture and standards, expand taxpayer education offerings, and promote the online platforms and digital offerings created to interact with taxpayers, among other things.
He said taxpayers must note that as previously announced, SARS would levy penalties from January 2022 where one of more returns are outstanding.
The Commissioner said the revenue collector’s rebuilding of SARS was slowly progressing.
“In pursuit of our strategic intent of voluntary compliance, it is important that we step up our efforts to provide certainty and clarity to taxpayers whilst working hard to make it easier to comply.
“At the same time our ability to detect and respond to non-compliance has shown marked improvement, but we must do more to deter and prosecute dishonest taxpayers and traders. These strategic objectives are implicit in our modernisation journey which increasingly will be built on a platform that augments human effort with data-driven insights and enabling technology,” he said
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