Ricochet News

SARS apologises for incident at PE branch, seeking ways to improve system

By Afikile Lugunya - Dec 8, 2017
SARS apologises for incident at PE branch, seeking ways to improve system

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) on Friday apologised to local taxpayers and said that it was looking at how it can improve its queueing system following an incident that happened at its branch in Port Elizabeth last week where taxpayers stood in long queues and allegedly could not be attended to.

"Firstly, SARS wants to apologise to taxpayers, who experienced distress at the branch. SARS is looking at ways to improve the queueing system, to ensure the system poses no inconvenience and burden to both the taxpayer and staff," said  SARS spokesperson, Sandile Memela.

"It must be noted that Tax Season is our peak period when engaging customers.  5,6 million tax returns were processed countrywide.  During this time long queues are inevitable. 

"As a matter of principle, we prioritise taxpayers, who are elderly, pregnant or who have a physical impairment.  The Port Elizabeth branch has a designated waiting area for these taxpayers, and staff are always on the lookout for these taxpayers." 

Memela explained that during the tax season, some staff come in as early as 06:00 to prepare for queuing taxpayers, who queue as early as 04:00. 

"The branch hours are 08:00 to 16:00.  During tax season the Port Elizabeth branch operated on Saturdays as well. 

"A forecasting tool is used to determine service demand based on trends that we monitor to ensure the necessary resources are allocated," he added. 

"All resources are allocated during tax season.  Less resources are allocated during off-peak periods before and after tax season. The incident in question transpired after Tax Season had closed.

"The manner in which staff manage the queue is through an electronic system and dashboard that assesses the different categories of queries that taxpayers are queueing for and the length of time it will take.  This is calculated against the number of tax agents available.  The system can detect when the branch has reached full capacity and this alerts the branch and operations managers." 

Memela said that taxpayers are informed of this and provided options to either wait and are informed of the length of time they will wait. 

"Alternatively, they are provided a preferential ticket to return on another day without having to wait in the queue on that day.

"The Port Elizabeth branch had an unexpected influx of taxpayers wanting to file their tax returns after the Tax Season deadline and had less staff allocated during this time, as Tax Season had concluded," he said. 

"Again, the Commissioner, management and staff of SARS apologises to taxpayers who were inconvenienced by the situation.  Should any taxpayer feel aggrieved by service at a branch, they should immediately escalate their complaint to the branch manager."

He said that should taxpayers still feel aggrieved, they can lodge a complaint with the SARS Contact Centre on 0800 00 7277 or the SARS Complaints Office at 0860 12 12 16. 

"If a taxpayer has exhausted all administrative complaint processes in SARS, and still feel dissatisfied, the taxpayer can lodge a complaint with the Tax Ombud via 0800 662 837 or on +27 12 431 9105 or at complaints@taxombud.gov.za."