Covid-19 ramps up technology to assist taxpayers online
Shirley le Guern
Durban - SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the Covid-19 pandemic had sped up the introduction of technology to engage with greater numbers of taxpayers online or virtually.
He said more than 30 additional digital functions had been created which had effectively replaced more than 500000 interventions that would have otherwise taken place in SA Revenue Services offices.
Those needing to visit Sars offices now had to make appointments.
For the current filing season, just over 1.3 million returns had been received last month and 85% of these taxpayers had filed returns online.
He said at least 300 000 “branch filers” had been converted to the online system last month.
“Sadly, we’ve let ourselves down by giving the standard taxpayers, the millions of individual taxpayers for whom compliance should be a seamless experience, the hardest time and (let) the crooks get away. So, we’ve got to reverse this triangle,” he said.
Kieswetter said that approximately 3 million people who were standard taxpayers who received their income from a single employer had been converted to an auto assessment system, based on the fact that Sars had access to all the necessary information from third parties such as employers, pension funds, insurance companies and medical aids.
“We do their work for them and then present them with the outcome. They have access to this through our easy mobile app and, if they agree with it, they simply accept and they don’t have to do anything further,” he said.
Of the taxpayers who had already responded, 50% had accepted their assessments.
Of these, 90% would have received their assessment in under five seconds. This would have told them that their submission had been received and quantified the outcome so that they knew if any money was owed.
He said he was also pleased that 91% of refunds had been paid within a 72-hour turnaround time.
“I’d like to debunk the myth that we introduced this to get more money from taxpayers,” he said.