SARS promises hassle free 2010 tax season

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Johannesburg - The 2010 tax season promises to be a smooth one for loyal taxpayers but those who have been evading the taxman are in for some nasty surprises.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has simplified and enhanced a number of its services, making it easier and quicker for individuals to complete their tax returns.

But, at the same time, the taxman has vowed to get tough on errant taxpayers, saying money would be taken from their salaries and bank accounts, if they do not sort out their taxes in the coming months.

Speaking at the start of the 2010 tax season in Johannesburg on Thursday, SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula promised South Africans a hassle free tax season.

He outlined the improvements to this year's tax season, which included electronic signatures - a system that allows tax payers, who had their returns captured electronically at a SARS branch, to sign their electronic returns using an electronic signature pad.

No copies of the documents needed to be printed, which translated into a shorter period taken to complete a tax return as there was no longer a need to wait for printed copies, Magashula added.

The SARS commissioner also promised that eFiling would not experience any "downtime" this tax season.

Upgrades to the system allow it to deal with increased volumes of taxpayers on the system and it will now take only a few seconds for taxpayers to call up the necessary details.

Magashula said SARS was also moving towards "taxpayer centric approach", which allowed taxpayers to take control of their tax affairs.

SARS dealt with a number of cases where taxpayers claimed to have no knowledge of non-compliance, while others claimed they had given all their information to a tax practitioner who then failed to submit it.

Magashula explained that taxpayers have now been given access via eFiling to their own tax affairs and from there they would be able to grant access to a tax practitioner.

Tax payers can also now see all correspondence from SARS relating to their tax affairs and the status of their returns and assessments.

He also announced plans SARS intends implementing to deal with those who had not paid their taxes.

Thousands of South Africans, who have not filed tax returns for a number of years, have been ignoring SARS warnings to submit their returns.

Penalty notices had been issued and Magashula warned if these errant taxpayers did not pay their penalties and submit their returns by September, then SARS would take the money owed from their bank accounts and salaries.

"These taxpayers have one last opportunity to avoid this severe action - and that is to contact SARS urgently to arrange the submission of all outstanding returns and to pay all outstanding penalties," he added.

Magashula also expressed gratitude to those South Africans who had paid their taxes, saying it was through their cooperation that the country was able to host the soccer world cup and pay for the stadia, road improvements and other infrastructure.

"SARS is very proud of the many compliant South African [taxpayers] over the years. We want to thank them and want to urge those who are non-compliant to voluntarily come forward. If they do not when we do catch them it will cost them a lot of money," he said.

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