The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has urged South Africans to comply with their tax returns this year. Tax season will officially get under way on the 1st of September.

South African taxpayers will have until the 16th of November to file their returns. SARS is planning to do things differently this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Briefing the media on Thursday, SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter says its newly introduced auto assessments will allow taxpayers to get their refunds within 72 hours.

This will enable SARS to complete tax return for more than 3 million individuals through data collected from third parties.

Taxpayers will receive SMS notifications from the 1st of August, advising them of their assessment outcomes. On the SMS message, they will be able to click on a link that allows them to view, update or accept their tax outcome via e-filling.

“Should the taxpayer think that they have additional information they can still choose to edit their tax return, update it. They can then be able to use a tax calculator to get a sense of their tax outcome. But, if the tax information is complete the tax calculator will simulate exactly what the assessment outcome to be,” Kieswetter says.

SARS says it has upgraded its filling systems and is encouraging South Africans to use online filing in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Kieswetter says they have completely virtualised their contact centres to enable SARS frontline officials to work from home. Taxpayers who cannot file electronically will be able to visit their SARS offices by appointment.

“We will continue to communicate during this period to provide clarity on your tax obligations. We will use social media, educational video and webinars. Secondly, we have added more than 30 additional digital functions for digital enhancement to completely remove the need for anyone to visit their SARS office and to do everything online. And only in the absolute last resort will we help you file your returns with one of our frontline staff.”

The revenue collector says it will make it hard and costly for non-compliant taxpayers and criminals.

Kieswetter says they would like to see more face charges and they will be naming and shaming those who commit tax fraud. “Sadly, we have also detected attempts to defraud us, dental losses and business losses. So, again strengthening the use of technology helps us.”

Keiswetter says they are following a system of voluntary compliance and are working under the assumption that most taxpayers are honest.

SARS says they will continue with their digital enhancement to enable taxpayers to fulfil their tax obligations.

The Revenue Service will be meeting with business associations and customs intermediaries as well as accounting firm in the next two days to strengthen the revenue collection engagements.

Over 62 000 taxpayers have already filed their tax returns, with only 12 percent of those being flagged for audit.

It has called on South Africans to contact its call centre and make use of the available online platforms.