The following is a right of reply by Sars in response to an opinion piece by Thomas Lobban and Victoria Lancefield of Tax Consulting SA, published on Moneyweb here.
The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has noted with concern the article published by Moneyweb of 28 January 2022 about the recruitment of 250 trainees as service consultants.
Sars has embarked on this journey of recruitment mindful of the multiple challenges that our country faces especially youth unemployment. Sars wishes to state upfront that it is incorrect to suggest that these new recruits will engage with the taxpayers until they have undergone an intensive process of training. The journey of capacitating Sars at various levels is ongoing.
Even after an intensive training, these new recruit will not operate without supervision, and as has always been the case with our service consultants, they will be coached and work directly with persons who are specialists in various tax fields.
It is not true to suggest that these new recruits would immediately be dealing with complex calls such as those relating to expatriates.
Sars has set out on a journey of rebuilding guided by its vision to build “a smart modern Sars with unquestionable integrity, admired and trusted by all”. Underpinning this vision, are the key strategic objectives such as making it easy and simple for taxpayers to comply with their legal obligations by providing clarity and certainty to all taxpayers. At the same time, we are also making it hard and costly for non-compliant taxpayers.
Driven by our strategic intent, we are fully committed in building a culture of [compliance].
Critically, Sars is developing an engaged, agile and diverse workforce to implement these objectives. The recruitment drive, not only for service consultants, is ongoing as the Sars gears itself to deal with the dynamic and changing environment. Like other organisations, Sars requires different levels of skill for different roles, while ensuring that all recruits can provide a quality service to taxpayers
The crux of the matter is that the article appears to be directing taxpayers to a certain tax consultancy firm. Such opinion pieces are a well-stablished (sic) means of building a public profile for any individual or organisation. That is a constitutional right that every citizen or organisation is entitled to and which Sars supports. However, with all rights come responsibilities, including fair comment in this case.
Today Sars boasts of exceptional talent that the organisation has nurtured to hone their skills. As the country’s revenue administration, we have processes in place that ensure proper checks and balances when the contact centre provides advice to taxpayers.
In addition to the supervision provided, all calls made and received by Sars are recorded to ensure we can improve on our service offering.
Under the leadership of Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter, our clear strategic objectives to promote voluntary compliance are beginning to make an impact. Sars’ performance has seen massive improvement as evidenced by the recent personal income tax filing season for individuals.
This year 93% of assessments were issued in under 5 seconds. Last year it was 85%.
This year Sars paid out refunds to 86% of taxpayers within 72 hours. Last year, 77.38% of refunds were paid within 72 hours. In all, we paid out more than R17 billion in refunds.
Sars, as a public institution is fully committed to sustaining trust and building confidence in the work of the organization. We do so, believing that our role is to help government to build a capable state that will address the socio-economic challenges our country faces and the well-being of all South Africans.