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Kieswetter: COVID-19 has forced Sars to speed up modernisation programme

During the lockdown, Sars had added more than 30 additional online applications to save taxpayers a trip to Sars offices and to safeguard staff members.

FILE: South African Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter. Picture: @sarstax/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - South African Revenue Service (Sars) Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said that COVID-19 had forced the service to readjust the way it designed and developed its systems as it prepared for filing season.

He said that during the lockdown, Sars had added more than 30 additional online applications to save taxpayers a trip to Sars offices and to safeguard staff members.

Tax returns can be filed from 1 September, however, some people will be auto-assessed in August.

Kieswetter said that at the heart of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the safety of staff and taxpayers.

He said that the theme for this year's filing season was: #YourTaxMatters

The commissioner said that Sars was committed to making it a seamless experience while also making it difficult and costly for non-compliant individuals and fraudsters.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Sars to step up the pace at which it was modernising its system.

This year, it wants all taxpayers to fullfill their tax obligations from the comfort and safety of their homes, to keep staff and the public safe from COVID-19.

Kieswetter said that they had enabled almost 1,000 agents with a virtual platform to conduct interviews and assist taxpayers, adding that contact centres had been almost completely virtualised to allow agents to work from home.

The revenue service will, however, still provide for those who insist on physically visiting a Sars office but this will be done by appointment only to avoid long queues.

The South African Revenue Service said that it would act more decisively than its ever had to before against taxpayers who remained non-compliant, be it negligence or criminal intent.

Commissioner Kieswetter said that the revenue service was committed to making it a seamless experience for the abiding taxpayer, while at the same time, they wanted to make it difficult and costly for non-compliant taxpayers and criminals who defrauded the organisation.

He said that the revenue service would like to see more fraudsters brought to book to face criminal charges, adding that those convicted of criminal offences would be named and shamed.

Meanwhile, as the ban on the sale of cigarettes remains in place under Level 3 of the national lockdown, people continue to take chances to smuggle illegal cigarettes across the country.

Kieswetter said that between 1 April and 17 July, Sars seized illegal cigarettes worth more than R77 million, up from R15 million last year.

Officials also seized 137kg of rhino horns valued at about R115 million at OR Tambo International Airport.

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