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Shorter deadline for tax returns

Jun 4, 2018
Shorter deadline for tax returns

Gone are the days of filing your tax return at the last minute  - as, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has announced a shortened time frame to file tax returns.

Briefing reporters in Tshwane, SARS acting Commissioner Mark Kingon on Monday said the revenue service has decided upon a shortened filing season.

This year’s tax season has been shortened by three weeks and will run from 1 July to 31 October 2018.

“In terms of the 2018 initiatives, and the most important one that we need people to be aware of is the shortened filing season. It will be shortened by three weeks, it’s actually 18 business days. This impacts on all individual non-provisional taxpayers. This deadline also applies to provisional taxpayers who opt to file at a branch,” said Kingon at Monday’s briefing.

Provisional taxpayers who use eFiling have until 31 January 2019 to file while the deadline for manual submissions is 21 September.

The rationale for the shorter filing season will allow the revenue service, taxpayer and the tax fraternity to deal with return verifications before most taxpayers go on the December holiday break. This as often there were delays with taxpayers having to respond to queries and requests over the holiday break.

“The quiet period after the first three months of tax season has now been removed resulting in efficient use of our resources. While we have condensed it we believe that we will effectively use our resources throughout the filing season without the troughs in volumes coming in at the branches,” said Kingon.

A draft public notice was issued on 9 May with regards to the matter and tax practitioner bodies were engaged on the shorter deadline.

Kingon, who was appointed to the top post in March, said the SARS has been hard at work taking stock of how it can be more efficient and improve service to taxpayers.

“Our main objective is to make tax compliance a simple and routine experience for the taxpayer. This is a work in progress, and we will be refining our initiatives with every tax season, over the next two years, taking on board the lessons learned.

As part of other initiatives, SARS  has sent personalised and direct communication to taxpayers who may not have to submit a return based on information submitted during tax season 2017, setting out their specific tax obligations.

In addition verification letters will be more specific in terms of the supporting documents that is require from taxpayers who may have been flagged for a specific risk. This, he said, will assist the taxpayer to respond timeously and accurately.

Taxpayers encouraged to use eFiling

Meanwhile, taxpayers will be encouraged to file their returns via eFiling (http://www.sarsefiling.co.za/) on their own while tax practitioners instead of going into a SARS branch will be requested to submit taxpayer returns using the eFiling which was introduced in 2008.

Other initiatives introduced include that of tax returns for the current year of assessment taking priority over outstanding returns filed for previous years. Kingon added that administrative penalties for late submissions will be imposed as they have been in previous years.

Reducing the burden of filing other returns

Kingon said the revenue is seeking to reduce the burden of filing other returns by this year not requiring tax returns for companies that are dormant and have no assets.

Up till now dormant companies even if they had no assets, no income at all they had to file returns and from this year “we will no longer require that there’s certain criteria”.

The revenue service gave its commitment to provide effective, professional, transparent and fair services to all taxpayers. 

In its assessment of operations and taxpayer trends, findings showed that too many people who are not required to file, due to them earning a single source of income from one employer of up to R350 000, are going to a branch.

During the 2016 tax season, 1.8 million people who did not need to submit a tax return did so, while in the 2017 tax season, 1.6 million people who did not need to submit a return did so.

The revenue service also noted that a large number of returns are being filed for prior years with a total 1 million outstanding returns for previous years being submitted.

In addition, a number of registered eFilers were unnecessarily being found to file at branches. In 2016, a total of 935 269 registered eFilers who were able to eFile used branches to file, while in 2017, a total of 868 562 registered eFilers did so. 

Tax Practitioners, whose primary filing channel is eFiling, were also using branches to file taxpayers’ returns. In 2016, a total of 132 000 returns were submitted by tax practitioners at SARS branches, while in the 2017 tax season, 120 000 were.

Readiness for filing season

Kingon said SARS has increased the testing phases of its system to ensure running smoothness when the tax season opens.

“Taxpayers have an obligation to us to file using accurate and honest information. We continue to find people trying to get money out of us by claiming fraudulent deductions, we continue to be vigilant in this regard,” he said.

Service Charter

Kingon admitted that the revenue services Service Charter was meant to be released a while ago – he said this will be done before the commencement of the tax season on 1 July.

“We have had further input into the Charter that we believe will strengthen it. We have socialised the Charter internally and I intend to release that Charter soon.” - SAnews.gov.za