JOHANNESBURG – Economies where people don’t pay their taxes have serious problems in moving their countries forward, the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said on Friday.
Speaking at the official launch of Sars’s small business support desks, commissioner Tom Moyane (pictured) said Sars would study the experience of its neighbour Mozambique to see how it too could create a culture that says it is “patriotic to pay our taxes”.
Des van Rooyen, member of the Standing Committee on Finance in parliament, said recent studies have shown that the collapse of small businesses is related to the issue of tax non-compliance.
“We know of course there are other major reasons like late payment to small businesses. Of course government is the main culprit there – an issue that is being attended to,” he said.
Van Rooyen said the opening of small business desks comes at a time when South Africans need to elevate the role of small businesses in the economic development of the country.
The small business desks are dedicated channels for small business owners to manage and resolve their tax matters when they visit a Sars branch. The desks assist in queries around business registration, tax clearance certificates and general business tax issues.
He said the desks would help to ensure that tax matters are simplified to small businesses, but also that the reputation of Sars is improved.
Listen to Van Rooyen discussing the issue of Sars’s reputation:
Moyane said there are many reasons for low tax compliance in the small business sector and therefore it is important to get a better understanding of the segment.
While some small businesses are “survivalist” in nature, others are organised businesses that employ people and reduce unemployment.
“Once we have an understanding of these factors, we can then improve our current awareness efforts through workshops and thus improve our services,” he said.
Since August last year Sars has established 138 small business desks in 50 of its 52 branches. The desks have the capacity to assist more than 14 000 small business taxpayers every week.
Moyane said Sars plans to add more desks to the system in the next two financial years.
Small Business Taxpayer Survey
According to the Small Business Taxpayer Survey Sars conducted between November 2014 and January 2015, 68% of small business taxpayers visited the desks to obtain a tax clearance certificate, while 9% wanted to resolve VAT issues.
Moyane said 87% of taxpayers were positive about the experience at Sars, with 68% describing it as “good” and 19% as “very good”. More than 90% said they would use the service again.
He said in the next two years Sars wants to increase the percentage of taxpayers that describe the experience as “very good” to 98%.
A significant 85% of these taxpayers had access to the internet, while 84% had smart phones.