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Sars – can a leopard change its spots?

Taxpayers struggle to get answers and assistance from the revenue service.
Many queries – and questions – but few answers. Image: Moneyweb

Following the campaign launched by the Office of the Tax Ombud in September, there has been much focus on taxpayers’ rights. Moneyweb receives many heart-rending emails from distraught taxpayers about the problems they are experiencing with the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

Read: Tax Ombud launches #TaxpayersRightsMatter campaign

The Tax Ombud can only assist a taxpayer if it concerns a systemic issue with Sars, hence, for those taxpayers who cannot afford a tax practitioner, or for those who cannot afford the legal costs of litigation, they are left up the creek without a paddle.

It is to be noted that “inaction” by Sars can also be taken on review. But the taxpayer must be willing (and able) to fork out the costs of litigation.

Moneyweb asks questions …

On September 17, the Sars media team was advised that Moneyweb would be writing a couple of articles on taxpayers’ rights following on from the launch of the #taxpayersrightsmatter campaign, and submitted the following questions:

1. Sars appears to be directing all its efforts on the existing tax base, which is becoming smaller. In my view, Sars officials will be under more and more pressure to increase tax collections, which will lead to errant behaviour. Do you have any views on this?

2. Is the focus on [getting] existing taxpayers to pay more, or is Sars doing enough to get non-paying people/companies to actually pay tax?

3. Following on the heels of [the Moneyweb article about] SIP [Project Managers] versus Sars, in which the court found that Sars had abused its wide powers of debt recovery, is yet [a] further example, WPD Fleetmas versus Sars. May I please have your comment on this case.

4. A recent article, Sars, have you taxed that Aston Martin?, resulted in many [reader] comments, for example:

  • ‘Sars could assist the seemingly hamstrung NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] by doing lifestyle audits which are not as politically sensitive to instigate.’
  • ‘Until such times as all parties are treated equally, Sars will have little respect.’
  • ‘Sars will bust your balls over a dispute on travel allowance – but ignore the corrupt cadres.’

After a number of emails from Sars media requesting extension, Sars has not replied.

The Covid-19 disaster will no doubt have a devastating impact of taxpayer rights, as they struggle to get answers and assistance from Sars, where a large portion of their staff are ‘working’ from home.

WPD Fleetmas versus Sars

Following on the heels of the Moneyweb article in which the court found that Sars had abused its wide powers of debt recovery, is yet another appalling example – WPD Fleetmas versus Sars.

Whereas Sars may issue a third party notice requiring another party to pay the taxpayer’s outstanding debts, it has to tick a few boxes before it does so.

Before Sars issues a third party notice, it must issue a final demand to the taxpayer.

Sars said that it had, but luckily (as in the SIP Project Managers matter), the taxpayer had taken a screen grab indicating that Sars had not done so.

Is there is a technical fault in the Sars eFiling system in that electronic notices generated by Sars can at times go awol?

One wouldn’t want to conclude that a Sars official would generate this eFiling notice as ‘proof’ at a later stage.

Disturbingly, this is the second time that a court has concluded that a Sars system-generated mail did not appear on a taxpayer’s eFiling profile. How many other instances are there?

The court declared Sars’s action to be “unlawful and therefore also null and void”.

Sars has to repay R6.3 million plus interest to WPF Fleetmas.

When an employer deducts PAYE and doesn’t pay it over to Sars

Surely Sars has the technology to track the monthly receipt of pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) payments from employers, and shouldn’t wait for the taxpayer filing season to harass the hapless employee who had absolutely no idea that the PAYE was not being paid over?

If Sars is not able to manage the agency relationship with employers, perhaps this should change.

From one distraught employee: “My previous employer has not issued me with an IRP 5 for the 2020 tax year … they are not returning my phone calls or emails … I logged a case with Sars via email but Sars is not responding to it …” Later, the Call Centre said Sars could not resolve the problem.

“I wish we had more rights (not power, just human rights).”

Inordinate delay in Vat registrations

Received from a taxpayer in August: “Sars is becoming more and more difficult to deal with. I am currently trying to register my company for Vat [value-added tax]. After five visits I am a little closer but not there yet. Frustrating to say the least.”

Received from taxpayer in October: “We have still not sorted our Vat registration out after over six months of trying. I am not the only person in this situation, I know of more companies with the same complaint … You ask them a question and they “escalate it with an answer due in 21 days”. The same exercise is then repeated several times.”

The South African Institute of Tax Professionals (Sait) has also identified problems experienced with Vat registrations, and has escalated the matter to Sars.

Does Sars perhaps have an underhand reason for the reluctance to register start-ups for Vat? Or is it merely inefficiency?

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I think the real problem is that in their attempt to advance cadre deployment they took on anybody that fitted the criteria to meet Bee numbers and so ended up with adequate numbers but with inadequate knowledge, experience or the will to resolve problems. I too have found SARS to be inept and you queue for literally days to see consultants – not a pleasant experience allround

Simple. SARS=ANC=corrupt&incompetent&arrogant. Will not change. Vide Zim.

“SARS- Can a Leopard change it’s spots?”

Consider this!

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior!

So I guess SARS, like Government cannot and will not change!

The fact that SARS has yet to apologise to Lackey over the infamous “rogue unit” report that almost destroyed him and family, is puzzling; if Kieswatter wants to rebuild trust an apology is definately required. The auditors responsible for the slanderous and inaccurate findings did publicly apologise.
Could it be that SARS fears a formal apology could lead to a damages claim in court?

Somehow cadre deployment was less pronounced at SARS than for instance, Eskom and SOEs. At least up to the time Mojane arrived.

Not inefficiency. Incompetence. Pure and simple.

Anybody who claims any other reason, is merely making excuses and is part of the problem.

As long as you incentivise the staff to squeeze the existing base by any means possible then they will use all the tools they have to boost their pay cheques. The taxpayer has no chance.

Expect more outrageous behaviour from SARS. Tax income has clearly fallen far more that they make public. Their desperation will only increase.

The relentless force of the evolution of species drives this race in the development of the moth and the bat, the fish and the dolphin, the rooibok and the cheetah, the nesting bird and the cobra, the bee and the honey badger and the taxpayer and SARS.

Zuma destroyed decades of evolutionary progress at SARS to benefit himself and to give the law-breaking taxpayer a headstart. This forces the starving SARS to fall back on the easy prey, the law-abiding citizen who is hamstrung by a residential address and a bank account number. The quest for survival will force the law-abiding citizen to evolve rapidly and to also break the law, or to find a way of hiding his address and real bank account from SARS. Evolution motivated the chameleon and the octopus to develop the second mechanism. This financial camouflage of the taxpayer is called the “offshore structure”. The taxpayer is still at the same place, doing his thing, but the prowling SARS cannot see him.

This is the ultimate result of the ANC incompetence and criminality. They force the taxpayer to evolve a mechanism to camouflage himself. This phenomenon is the combination of “intelligent design” and evolution because the intelligent taxpayer evolves.

No, this leper can’t change its spots….

Typical SARS. I don’t understand why they keep focused on us: the regular and legal taxpayers while millions running cash business never been caught or even audited. SARS is making our lives hard and unpleasant and this selly e-filing system is neither user-friendly not smart. Tax return should be automated since SARS has all info, and allow a smart channel for tax return. People are rearming more than R1m annually in cash and yet they claim they are poor so I think SARS has a duty to attend. We kill ourselves everyday 8 to 5 and then our money that SARS taxing is falling in the hands of ANC and the fat-cats.

Try getting a foreign investment certificate. Currently 6 weeks and counting. Complaints are answered by automatic reply – your complains are invalid as service is still within acceptable performance limits.

About 10 years ago when Moneyweb still ran MoneywebTax as a separate site, whenever I wrote an article that took SARS to task on anything, within 24 hours I would get an irate phone call from SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay (“bad cop”) tearing strips off me for daring to be critical of SARS on a public forum.

Invariably, within that week, I’d get a far more conciliatory call from Mark Kingon (“good cop”) – I can’t remember what his title was at the time, but he was already fairly senior within SARS – in which we’d discuss the issues (even meeting at Moneyweb’s offices on one occasion), and often a solution would follow shortly thereafter.

To be fair to Adrian, he was actually a decent bloke who was simply doing his job – and despite getting quite tense with me at times, at least he passed on my issues within SARS (which then prompted the follow-up call from Mark).

Sadly, a great deal of water has since run under that bridge, and getting anything out of SARS nowadays in terms of answers to questions (not to mention responses to complaints submitted on clients’ behalf) is like trying to track down the Kruger Millions…

Unfortunately most taxpayers probably have a sad story relating to SARS dealings.

May I offer advice as I too had to visit SARS when E-filing could not accept my return. What followed was -as expected – a pathetic attempt at blaming ME for being unable to submit my return..

After discussing my “problem” amongst the highest level of tech support including the developer(s), I was told I would be contacted once the issue was resolved. That was 2019.

Soooo, I managed to submit my 2019 return, but through Taxtim (not affiliated) as I realized their system connects directly to the SARS back-end system, with E-filing merely a poor excuse for a capturing application.

Although I was able to successfully submit my return, I was still audited and “my b****” busted over travel, yes while our cadres wallow in their money pits….

Government doesn’t seem to have IT systems that are fit for purpose; the TERS / UIF was also inadequate.
But one may have been more forgiving had our hard-earned taxes not been squandered over the years by a thieving ANC Tripartite Alliance.

I would definitely like it if it`s only businesses that struggle with SARS administration issues. The fact is that SARS doesn’t have enough personnel to work with. This over-reliance on technology than human beings is the cause for frustration many a times. There`s vas unemployment out there these people may assist in changing the situation for the better.

The private sector fellows complain about the massive wage bill for government, forgetting that these people work for their salaries. The majority of South Africans are lumped in poverty, its only government who is rolling up his sleeves and assist them, relying in taxes obviously. So we need more hands to trace the illicit flows, to implement the wealth tax and to fight corruption in all its forms. The private sector must come forward and assist. Broaden the skills base, create more employment, reduce the inequality through effective wealth redistribution( Reduce the massive payments to executives who are doing nothing whilst paying the workers whose hands are on the deck skimpy salaries to an extent that they cant feed and properly educate their children)
We complain that there`s massive corruption forgetting that it takes two to tango, if government is this corrupt, then who are corrupters, business or private sector obvious. So lets all be patriotic.
This will definitely bring about change even in SARS situation.

What you want more redistribution of wealth? What do you think a 45% tax rate is? South Africa may be one of the most unequal societies in the world but it is also one of the most distributive societies in the world. Who do you think pays for free houses, free schooling, free medical care and now free university education to boot??

Gallant effort at diffusing the anger and frustration of tax payers – yes, SARS has indeed lost very experienced senior staff known as “institutional memory.”
However Sir/Madam, the word “patriotic” is hardly appropriate in the current SA; many if not most honest citizens have completely lost faith in government. And while private sector corruption e.g. Steinhoff is equally despicable as you correctly point out, the NPA and justice system, like SARS, lacks the necessary capacity and specialised skills also due to government corruption and inferior education system, to successfully take on Steinhoff’s legal team in a court.

as per MWeb’s quote below in article….. about “balls”???

try to add the additional medical claims…. & your knee replacements will be taken out again!!!

‘Sars will bust your balls over a dispute on travel allowance – but ignore the corrupt cadres.’

I didn’t realise SARS was supposed to collect tax. I thought its principal function was to make multiple scanned copies of my ID, bank statements etc. As their checklists for ‘supporting documents’ appear to be ten years out of date, they keep demanding documents that don’t necessarily exist, and in my case don’t, so I don’t expect that situation to change.

I must be living in a different country using someone else’s e- filing.

I cant remember the last time I had a SARS problem. Mmmh wait 3 years in a row about 7 years ago. I looked up in the tax law what they were auditing wrote them a reply and they accepted it.

Everytime I get stuck the SARS person on the other side of the call very patiently helps.

Maybe they aren’t completely bad?

I recently sent an email enquiry during lockdown and also received a prompt and professional response. The problem lies with the executives who growl at the general population – it’s a fact that we’ve lost faith in government and now want to know what’s happening about tax and the Ashton Martin!
However, given tax confidentiality requirements in terms of the law, it’s perhaps unrealistic of Moneyweb to expect to publish details of prosecutions for tax of individuals. But SARS media department should do a lot more to build trust with the media – simply ignoring media questions is not a relationship-building block.

I am struggling to load documents on to the efiling site after I registered and it tells me somebody will contact me yet as of die beginning if sept nobody contated me for an appointment. Can I just visit the office with all ny documents.

I LOVE the way they pay money to advertise????????????? Monopoly Duh.

It is very difficult to care much about Sars or show any sympathy towards them when you as a law abiding citizen pays your tax on time up to the cent.

Then get audited every year as if you were one of the many people mentioned in the media for corruption!

As a sa.citizen im also a victim of SARS with a letter of ransome demand yet i m resently retrenched waiting to to be paid by this registered company i worked for.for 10yrs yet never received an IRP5 from 2019, so i have no idea how owe this dept.when money was deducted every year & I was complying with annual e-filing

I agree on the VAT registrations. I believe that a compulsory VAT registration should be finalised within a day. 21 days delay, or any delay for that matter, places unnecessary pressure and administration burden on the taxpayer.

End of comments.





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