Despite the improvements that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has made to its system, the institution is still accused of collecting taxes for civil servants to squander.
The organization against tax abuse, known as Outa, asked people in a poll what SARS would have to do to win back members of the public’s trust. From the feedback, it appears to be extremely difficult to reverse the inherent mistrust in this state institution.
According to Outa, the respondents in the poll were overwhelmingly critical of SARS as the institution that hands over money to a corrupt government.
“Respondents link the mistrust in SARS to the government’s looting, although, as several respondents pointed out, SARS does not control the spending and the biggest problem lies with the government’s misappropriation,” says Outa.
A respondent pointed out that people do not actually distrust SARS, but rather the “crooks who steal the money in the government”.
However, another respondent feels that as long as SARS collects taxes and hands them over to the government, he will “blame and fight against” the government agency.
“SARS is the one that drives the mafia state,” says the respondent.
“SARS currently represents the very people who are misusing public money. Taxpayers feel that their hard-earned money is being thrown into this endless pit of corruption. Why should people feel good about paying taxes?” asked another respondent.
The majority of respondents who took part in the poll insisted that lifestyle audits of politicians be carried out; high-profile people publicly linked to questionable behavior are investigated; those held accountable for the misappropriation of funds; and higher taxes for the super rich.
The respondents also argued that tax evasion through illegal trade should be caught and ended.
There is also a need for SARS to broaden the tax base, especially in the taxi industry, and to trace missing money abroad.
The respondents suggested that the government, through the revenue service, give tax incentives to those who use private security companies and people who generate power themselves. These incentives should also apply to those who pay school fees.
“They (the government and SARS) punish those who declare and pay everything, while the crooks are at large. It is a very shocking system,” says one of the respondents.
Outa says it has become clear from the short poll that South Africans have a deep distrust of SARS as a state institution, and that regardless of what is done, it will be treated the same way as the government.
“SARS can do more to earn members of the public’s trust if their officers take action against those known for their corrupt activities,” says Outa.
“Although SARS and the police have recently caught illegal coal contractors at Eskom, and this shows that steps are being taken in this regard, the revenue service still has a long way to go to gain the trust of members of the public on a large scale. “