The South African Revenue Service (Sars) had to do a “number of fixes” to its electronic filing (eFiling) system over the weekend after receiving complaints from taxpayers.
Since the start of this year’s filing season for individual taxpayers two weeks ago, major enhancements to eFiling have caused problems for tax practitioners in the linking of accounts, accessing eFiling, as well as with the registration of new taxpayers on the system.
The South African Institute of Tax Professionals (Sait) says tax practitioners were also unable to access certain forms, tax types and returns, and experienced challenges with the uploading of supporting documentation.
A case of bad timing
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) says the fact that the technology update was launched at the start of filing season and in the week of June payroll submissions “may have compounded the system problems”.
Saica’s project director of tax advocacy, Sharon Smulders, says the challenges started with the registration process related to the new primary user function.
“These challenges included problems with the OTP [one-time pin] not working, not being able to save data inserted on the return or pre-populated data disappearing from the return, certain forms not being accessible on certain browsers and the inability to print returns or download assessments, and incorrect assessments being issued.”
Problems seem limited to the taxpayer interface
She says Sars’s main system integrity does not seem to be compromised, despite the numerous challenges with the taxpayer interface.
Sars said in a statement over the weekend that it was working closely with tax practitioners through the recognised controlling bodies such as Sait and Saica.
Sait head of stakeholder management Beatrie Gouws says that while some of the glitches have been resolved, tax practitioners were still reporting areas that needed some tweaking.
She says the introduction of the primary users and portfolio management features are aimed at simplifying the way tax practitioners interact with Sars.
“The introduction of these features affects current users who have multiple Sars eFiling login names linked to the IDs, requiring them to link these tax profiles. The user will select a default primary user in order to access eFiling going forward.”
Enhanced safety for eFilers
The OTP feature has been introduced to ensure additional safety for eFiling users.
“Although there are some teething problems, initial reports suggest that the enhancements will indeed ease the communication between Sars and their clients that make use of eFiling,” says Gouws.
Smulders says Saica has been engaging with Sars since the start of the filing season on July 1 and notes that many of their problems have been resolved.
Sars says it had received more than 450 000 personal income tax submissions through eFiling by Friday. It has also received 36 600 submissions through its MobiApp.
The revenue service apologised for the challenges taxpayers have been experiencing with the payment of refunds and the inspection, verification or audit processes.
Sars has “endeavoured” to pay the current period’s refunds within seven business days of finalising the final assessment, if there is no other debt and all the taxpayer’s obligations have been met.
It also endeavoured to notify taxpayers within 15 business days of the submission of a return if they have been selected for an inspection, verification or audit.
Sars says it will conclude verifications within 21 business days of all required supporting documents being received and 90 business days in the case of audits.
Filing season for taxpayers making use of the electronic platforms will run from July 1 until December 4, while those making use of branch offices can do so from August 1 until October 31. Provisional taxpayers have until the end of January next year.