Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba, Independent Media
JOHANNESBURG - The SA Revenue Service (Sars) is considering the re-establishment of criminal tax courts following a rise in the number of taxpayers failing to submit their annual tax returns.

Sars said the number of taxpayers who submitted their tax returns decreased from 89percent in 2013 to 75percent last year.

The revenue service said the number of expected submissions and actual compliance had dropped steadily during the period.

Sars head of research Dr Randall Carolissen said during the presentation of the 2017 Tax Statistics released jointly with the National Treasury that Sars had picked up a trend in which some taxpayers submitted returns with no payments or reflection of income.

Carolissen said others simply chose to pay a penalty rather than submit returns. “Sars will have to look at those who are cynically not paying their taxes because they are dissatisfied with government," he said.

“We cannot allow slippage of compliance. Once it starts to take root, it is difficult to reverse.” Carolissen said Sars wanted the reintroduction of tax courts. Work has already been done in this regard and an announcement would be made soon. Sars said the country’s compliance rate stood at 75percent.

Malebo Moloto, tax technical adviser at the South African Institute of Tax Professionals, said taxpayers had become increasingly reluctant to submit returns. Moloto said this was because of the administrative burden to comply.

“They submit their returns, have to respond to numerous queries, and despite submitting supporting documentation their refunds are still delayed.” Carolissen said personal income tax eased in the last tax year as a result of the slowdown in the economy, lower wage settlements, smaller bonuses and job shedding.

He said the contribution declined to just over 9percent in the previous filing season from 12percent.