18 000 returns filed in four hours as tax season opens

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Tax season opened with a bang according to the South African Revenue Services
(SARS) who reported that just over 18 000 employees had filed their tax returns by
by 10:30am on Monday, 1 July 2013.

It was reported that the majority of taxpayersfiled their returns online or via the
SA Revenue Service (SARS) smart phone App.

So many people filed, that the SARS website was temporarily down due to the
unexpected large volumes of people who filed as soon as the e-filling service opened
at 6am.

When the 2013 tax season for employees opened on Monday, July 1, Finance
Minister Pravin Gordhan, Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and SARS
Commissioner Oupa Magashula took to the streets to raise awareness to taxpayers
on why they needed to pay tax, how easy it is to file their taxes and how the
government uses the public purse responsibly.

Nene and Magashula also spent some time chatting to Gautrain commuters in a
bid to raise tax awareness, and also found a taxpayer who was busy filing his returns
via his smart phone.

On his arrival at SARS’s Edenvale branch in eastern Johannesburg just before 10am,
Gordhan asked Sbusiso Tshabalala, a taxpayer from Thembisa in Ekurhuleni, if he liked
paying his taxes, and why.

Tshabalala said he was also happy with the level of assistance he received from the
SARS staff, and said his waiting time in the queue was only 10 minutes.

"I am happy because I do see a lot of progress when I pay my taxes. There is
less corruption and I can see how the [social] grants that are given to the elderly
people and the children are helping.'

Gordhan said the importance of raising awareness could not be overstated.

"It is good to have South African citizens who are aware firstly, that it is
necessary to pay taxes as it keeps our government going and gets public services
delivered to our people.

"Secondly, they are very happy with the kind of service they are receiving at SARS
in terms of waiting times and the assistance they are getting. And thirdly, because
of their understanding of where their taxes are spent and how those taxes benefit
different categories of South Africans. And that is the kind of awareness we would
like to create.'

After interacting with Tshabalala and other tax payers, Gordhan told journalists
that the high number of people who had filed by Monday was an indication that
awareness amongst taxpayers had increased and that more employees and
employers were declaring their income.

He said in the 2012 tax season, 5.66 million people submitted their tax returns on
time - which was a 16.4% improvement from 2011 - and that the outstanding 1.4
million returns from the previous year had also been submitted.

Gordhan said SARS had set its revenue collection target to R898 billion for the 2013
tax season - which is a 9% target increase on average compared to previous years.
Government expenditure currently stands at just over R1 trillion.

"The more tax we can collect, the less we have to have to borrow, and the more we
will get to build houses and invest in infrastructure.

"It also ensures that we can decrease the deficit figure of 4.6%,' he said.

When Gordhan tabled national budget earlier this year, he raised the annual tax
threshold from R120 000 to R250 000 - meaning that those whose gross annual
income is below R250 000 are no longer required to submit tax returns.

Gordhan reiterated this policy shift, which will come as good news to taxpayers.

The deadline for taxpayers who submit their returns manually by post or by
dropping them off at a SARS drop box is 27 September 2013.

Non-provisional taxpayers - those who submit a tax return and earn and income
from one or more employer - have until 22 November 2013 to submit their returns.

For the provisional taxpayers - who form a smaller segment of the tax base and
are individuals with other forms of income like investments, income from business
activities, rental income, royalties or from company directorships, must file their
returns by 31 January 2014.

Gordhan also issued a stern warning to tax dodgers and tax fraudsters, and said
law enforcement agencies would take action in line with the law to deal with those
that did not comply.

R4 billion in tax penalties was collected last year from taxpayers who either
submitted their returns late or did not submit them at all.

Gordhan also said there were on-going discussions between finance ministers
from G22 countries on improving tax collections from global companies that did not
pay taxes from their offshore investments. - SAnews.gov.za



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