With less than a month to go the South African Revenue Services (SARS) has announced the shortening of its 2018 tax season by three weeks ending at the end of October.
“A shorter filling season allows for additional time for SARS, taxpayers and the tax fraternity to deal with return verifications before most taxpayers go on the December holiday break”, acting SARS commissioner Mark Kingon told the media on Monday.
Kingon said shortening the tax season was motivated by the delays the agency had encountered when it comes to resolving queries and requests from taxpayers over the holiday break.
A draft public notice on the new tax season was issued on May 9 and closed for comment on the May 23 this year to allow for public comment.
“We engaged tax practitioner bodies on the shorter deadline and cited reasons which were deliberated and later accepted”, said Kingon.
The tax season will now open on July 1 and end October 31 and applies to all individual non-provisional taxpayers. The deadline for manual submissions through the post and SARS dropbox is September 21 2018. Non-provisional taxpayers filing via efiling have until October 31. Provisional taxpayers — or taxpayers that earn more than one income — have until October 31 to submit their returns at a branch or until January 31 2019 through efiling.
Kingon said that SARS had assessed its operations and taxpayer trends to determine what had contributed to filing backlogs. Its findings indicated that, among other issues, too many taxpayers who do not need to file a return are doing so at branches, a large number of returns were also being filed for previous years, and registered e-filers were unnecessarily filing at branches.
To deal with the backlogs and traffic inflow at its branches, SARS has sent personalised letters and direct communication to taxpayers who may not have to submit a return. Kingon said that in 2016 tax season, 1.8-million people who did not need to submit a tax return did so while in the 2017 tax season, this figure stood at 1.6-million.
Taxpayers who may not need to submit a return must meet the following requirements: earn a total income of not more than R350 000 per year; receive employment income for a full year from one employer; have no other form of income such as a car allowance, business income or income from another job; and do not intend on claiming for additional allowable tax-related deduction for example medical expenses.
A large number of returns are being filed for prior years, Kingon said, which also contributed to backlogs. A total of 1-million outstanding returns for prior years was submitted during the 2016 tax season and in the 2017 tax season, 733 000 returns were submitted for prior years.
Returns for the current year of assessment will take priority over outstanding returns filed for prior years.
This year SARS will also not require tax returns for companies that are dormant and have no assets. This is another initiative to reduce the filing burden.
Other parties that contributed to high traffic volumes at SARS branches, according to Kingon, were prospective employers and employment agencies. These two groups contributed to high traffic volumes at branches by requiring first time job seeker to have taxpayer reference number before hiring them. Kingon suggested both employers and employment agencies should make use of [email protected], a filing platform for employers.
SARS has requested tax practitioners strictly to use e-filing for submitting taxpayers returns and not use branches.
“We have been hard at work taking stock of how we can be more efficient and improve service to taxpayers”, said Kingon. He also said that although the initiative is aimed at making tax submission easier, it is a work in progress and SARS will continue to refine it.