080310 The new offices of SARS at corner Rissik street and Albert street. Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba

The taxman has invited the public to take part in a pilot project aimed at making tax collection speedier and simpler.

SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Oupa Magashula announced the details yesterday at the launch of the 2012 tax season.

He said new services had been tested on Sars staff and on research focus groups.

“We are inviting taxpayers via our Facebook site and Sars website, who are ready to file their returns and are willing to pilot these new services, to contact Sars so they can participate in our final testing over the next few weeks. Their experiences and feedback will determine when we make these available to the wider taxpayer community.”

Sars has scored a great success with electronic filing (e-filing) introduced in 2006. Since then the country had seen “one of the most rapid uptakes anywhere in the world from a fully manual process in 2006 to more than 99 percent electronic submission either through e-filing or through a Sars branch last year”, Magashula said.

“Only 22 000 manual returns were submitted last year.”

Five years ago it took an average of three months to receive an assessment, Magashula said. This was reduced to three weeks, then three days and, last year, to 24 hours. Now it is aiming for three minutes.

The tax season started on Sunday and Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said 33 091 people had e-filed returns by 10am yesterday, either directly or through Sars offices.

Sars is introducing cellphone and smartphone filing as well. It also plans a service that will allow direct assistance to someone battling with e-filing from their own computers. – Ethel Hazelhurst