PRETORIA – Despite an increase in the threshold for taxpayers who do not have to submit a tax return, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) experienced a marked increase in the number of tax returns filed just hours after the start of the 2015 Tax Season on Wednesday.
Around 08:00, 17 136 people have filed their tax returns compared to 15 226 at the same time last year.
Shortly before 10:00, 29 473 taxpayers have submitted returns via eFiling whilst 7 305 have filed via Sars branches and Mobile Tax Units.
At the Sars Pretoria CBD office, around 1 050 tax returns have been filed by that time and the expectation was that roughly 3 000 returns would be filed by the end of the day. The trend was similar to the experience on the last day of the 2014 tax season, Justin Hawker, branch manager of the office, said.
When asked if the increase could be attributed to the financial pressures South African taxpayers were experiencing and their hope to access an early refund, finance minister Nhlanhla Nene (pictured) said this possibility couldn’t be ruled out.
Early submission also gave taxpayers the peace of mind of knowing whether they still had taxes due or whether they could access a refund, he said.
Individuals whose total annual salary from one employer did not exceed R350 000 during the 2015 tax year and who did not have any allowances, deductions or additional income do not have to file a tax return. In 2014 the threshold was R250 000. As a result of the increase, Sars expects a decline of roughly 850 000 tax returns from the 5.32 million submitted last year.
Sars will be under pressure to step up its tax collection efforts amidst dwindling economic growth.
Sars commissioner, Tom Moyane, said the achievement of the revenue collection target of R1.1 trillion was not negotiable, but said economic conditions would also have an impact on revenue collection.
Moyane said every country faces a tax gap (the difference between the taxes owed and the taxes paid on time). The role of the tax authority is to collect as much revenue as possible to narrow the gap in order to facilitate domestic investment and other government programs.
Over the past few years there has been a growing concern about the relatively small percentage of South African taxpayers who contribute the bulk of taxes.
Nene said although South Africa has a progressive tax system, the argument that the country’s tax base is too small is only based on personal income tax (PIT) and does not account for other forms of taxes.
“I am of the view that in South Africa we are all taxpayers.”
* For more information about the submission deadlines and tax season also read this article.