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SARS Anticipates Record 2012 Tax Filing Season

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has announced new details for individual taxpayers and trusts for the 2012 tax season, in which it is expected that up to 6m taxpayers will submit their income tax returns.

For the new tax season, SARS will unveil new technology and improved services that, it is hoped, will make it much easier and far more convenient for taxpayers to submit their returns.

Five key new service initiatives will be available to taxpayers: quicker assessments, within minutes of submission; a new eFiling application for smart phones; filing a tax return through your mobile phone; real-time call centre assistance to help with filing (Help-You-eFile); and training videos on how to eFile available on YouTube.

SARS has also opened a number of new branches as well as refurbishing others, and is introducing new mobile branches across the country to extend its presence to areas that were previously under-serviced.

In a statement, the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan commented that “the South African tax system has benefitted from strong growth in the number of registered taxpayers over recent years which is a direct indication of the growing levels of tax compliance in our country”.

By the filing deadline last year, a record 4.86m individuals and trusts had submitted their tax returns on time – 23% higher than the previous year.

In fact, the number of registered individual taxpayers increased from 1.7m in 1994 to more than 6m in 2010. That has, however, doubled following policy changes in 2011 to register all individuals in the country who are formally employed (13.7m individuals by March 31, 2012), despite changes to the tax thresholds. Over the same period, the number of companies registered for income tax increased from 422,000 in 1994 to more than 2m in 2011/12.

In a like manner, registered value added tax (VAT) vendors increased from 397,000 in 1994 to 664,000 currently. This number has increased while the threshold for VAT registrations has also risen substantially to the present ZAR1m (USD122,500) turnover per year.

He emphasized that “almost every one of the estimated population of more than 40m consumers in South Africa makes a contribution to the fiscus through paying tax – be it through income tax on earnings, capital gains or VAT. It is this shared responsibility that has contributed to our fiscal strength and stability, growing each year as reflected by total revenue collection increasing from ZAR114bn in 1994/95 to over ZAR742.7bn in the most recent financial year.

SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula pointed out that the “approximately 12m individual taxpayers together contributed a total of ZAR251.6bn through personal income tax to our country in the last tax year – or 33.8% of all revenue collection”.

“Of these,” he added, "just under half will, over the next five months, submit a return to SARS to reconcile these contributions against their actual liabilities. In this process approximately 60% will receive a refund, 20% will be tax neutral or receive what we call a ‘nil’ assessment, and approximately 20% will owe additional tax.”

Last year 99% of all returns were completed and submitted electronically – either with assistance at a SARS branch, or by taxpayers or their intermediaries via eFiling. The increased use of technology enabled SARS to process 98% of all returns within 24 hours. SARS also paid ZAR11.9bn in refunds to taxpayers, with 85% of all refunds paid within 72 hours.

It is now confirmed that the use of new technology will offer quicker assessments. SARS will give taxpayers their assessments within minutes of filing their returns. Taxpayers visiting a SARS branch office will be able to leave with the outcome of their assessments and eFilers will receive them electronically before they log off. This is a huge improvement on the three months average it took in 2006, three days in 2009 and 24 hours in 2010 and 2011.

In addition, SARS will introduce an eFiling application that will allow taxpayers to complete and submit their individual tax returns and receive their assessments on new devices like iPads, smartphones and tablets, and an eFiling mobile site where taxpayers can complete and submit their ITR12 return on their mobile phones.

The 2012 tax season runs from July 1, 2012 to January 31, 2013. The deadline for taxpayers who submit their tax returns manually by post or in a SARS drop box is September 28, 2012, while the deadline for all taxpayers who submit their returns electronically at a SARS branch is November 23, 2012. However, provisional taxpayers who submit their returns via eFiling have until January 31, 2013.