The advertisement by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for 370 highly skilled specialists was a sign that it was moving to restore credibility and plug tax slippage. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency
The advertisement by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for 370 highly skilled specialists was a sign that it was moving to restore credibility and plug tax slippage. Picture: Henk Kruger/ANA/African News Agency

SARS recruitment drive ‘a move to plug tax slippage’

By Edward West Time of article published Mar 30, 2021

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DURBAN - THE ADVERTISEMENT by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for 370 highly skilled specialists was a sign that it was moving to restore credibility and plug tax slippage.

This was according to Tax Consulting SA’s head of tax technical, Jean du Toit, who commented on SARS’s advertisement, published on Saturday, for 370 highly skilled specialists, as well as 200 finance graduates, with a particular focus on technology.

“SARS is preparing for a future where increasingly our work will be informed by data-driven insights, self-learning computers, artificial intelligence, and interconnectivity of people and devices,” the advertisement said.

Du Toit said the recruitment drive followed hard on the heels of an extra allotment of R3 billion to SARS in the February Budget.

He said SARS had lost a large number of highly skilled employees in previous years, and this, together with perceptions of a lack of capacity and inefficiency, had led to increasing tax slippage.

The recruitment drive was tangible evidence that SARS was trying to reinvigorate itself, as well as an attempt to address tax slippage, he said.

Economists.co.za chief economist Mike Schussler said although he did not know the exact figures, he estimated that up to 10 to 15 percent of personal tax was lost to slippage, and although no tax system could collect 100 percent of personal taxes due, there was likely scope to reduce this slippage by 5 to 8 percent.

He said there were likely also fairly large tax leakages in transfer pricing, value-add tax and cigarette taxes, and on other excise duties.

Another tax specialist, who chose to remain anonymous, said there were some questions about SARS’s ability to attract that number of highly skilled tax specialists in a short time.

The specialists would have to be recruited as civil servants from the private sector, which generally paid high salaries for these kind of skills.

“How attractive do their packages have to be, to be able to join SARS? How long, realistically then, would such a recruitment drive take for such a large number of new employees?” he said.

“And if they do not fill those tax gaps in a short period of time, what does this mean for tax collection? These are the questions me and my partners are asking ourselves,” the specialist said.

SARS was looking for IT specialists and data management specialists – including data analysts and data scientists – audit and risk specialists, investigation specialists, research analysts, social scientists, project leaders, legal specialists, and regulatory and risk specialists.

The graduates SARS was seeking should be from the disciplines of tax, customs, legal, audit and chartered accounting.

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