The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has urged the public to rather make use of its eFiling platform rather than to visit branches as South Africa continues its efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
“The South African Revenue Service is balancing its responsibility to protect both our employees and our taxpayers as well as remain focused and committed to serving the public and continue with our revenue collection,” said the organisation in a statement released on Tuesday.
In a letter addressed to taxpayers, the revenue service said that while it will continue with its operations, it has implemented several stringent measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
This, it said, was in alignment with the address made to the nation by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday. In his address, President Ramaphosa declared Covid-19 as a national disaster.
Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter added in the letter: “The president calls on all of us as South Africans for an extraordinary response and as Sars, we are taking this opportunity at all times to provide clarity and certainty to our taxpayers in how we move forward in terms of our service offerings.
“As Sars, we have to balance the important work we do to collect revenue, facilitate service to taxpayers, travellers and traders, whilst at the same time taking reasonable measures to protect ourselves as Sara officials and yourselves as citizens of the Republic.”
The revenue service will adhere to strict general hygiene as well as social distancing to reduce the spread of the Covid-19.
Sars has implemented the following changes:
- Taxpayers are discouraged to come into the branches and are advised to make use of online digital channels for all engagements.
- The majority of the business can be done on eFiling platform (www.sarsefiling.co.za).
- Sars mobiApp in addition to Personal Income Tax functionality provides additional information which encourages users to download through the app store (Google Play or Apple Store).
- Sars website (www.sars.gov.za) will be regularly updated with news and announcements.
- Should taxpayers still require contact with Sars, they can phone the Sars Contact Centre on 0800 00 7277, instead of visiting a branch.
- If South Africans still required to visit a Sars Tax branch, strict adherence to social distancing and general hygiene practices will be applied.
- Within the guidelines as set out by the president, a maximum of 100 taxpayers will be allowed in the branches at any one point in time and will be managed firmly.
- Sars request that taxpayers watch branch visitor volumes and queue times on their website and the Sars mobiApp. This should help taxpayers to plan around needing to visit an alternate branch if really necessary.
- All Sars branches, as well as ports of entry, have been equipped with hand sanitizers and they expect taxpayers to make use of these ahead of engaging their staff.
- Additional Sars procedures have been put in place and will be utilized to ensure that work surfaces are regularly cleaned and sanitized.
- Staff have also been provided with additional protective gear such as gloves, and where required, additional protective equipment such as masks and suits.
- Sars request everyone to observe strict one-meter distances and avoid person to person contact as far as possible.
- A large part of the daily visitors to Sars Tax offices are individuals requesting a tax reference number for the purpose of employment.
- Until further notice, Sars will no longer issue these tax reference numbers for this category of request and individuals are requested not to visit their branches for this purpose.
- Sars will shortly provide a solution whereby their digital channels (eFiling, mobiApp) will cater for this requirement. Sars aim to have this solution operational in the next few weeks.
- In the meantime, employers need to request to register employees online with Sars. Sars have asked employers to assist them in this regard.
- There is no requirement to register with Sars ahead of looking for a job, and a prospective employer may register employees as well.
- If supporting documentation is required by Sars, people are encouraged to follow these guidelines: upload via eFiling, make use of the Sars mobiApp, drop off documents at a branch drop-box and if all else fails, Sars will provide a dropbox in their branch offices.
- If taxpayers have an account related matter, please use the following channels: As a first port of call, please contact the contact centre.
- If taxpayers are unable to make a call to the contact centre, please use the following dedicated channels: account balances: Accounts@sars.gov.za; third party appointment queries: TPA@sars.gov.za; Journals: Journals@sars.gov.za; Statement of accounts: SOA@sars.gov.za; AA88’s – AA88@sars.gov.za
Ports of entry
If people need to visit or pass through a port of entry, Sars customs officials will also follow similar hygiene practices and in addition:
- Physical contact with travellers will be avoided as far as possible.
- Non-intrusive detecting devices such as baggage scanners will be deployed.
- Where required, Sars staff will be issued with additional protective clothing and gear.
“During these times, please be assured that we aim to provide continuity of the necessary engagement with taxpayers and traders whilst balancing the risk of the coronavirus from spreading through the various measures to protect our staff as well as yourselves. All our key stakeholders are being engaged and we are in collaboration to align and focus,” said the commissioner.
With these measures in place, Sars reminded taxpayers of their obligation.
“With all of these measures in place, we need to however take cognisance of the fact that your duties as taxpayer remain and all outstanding tax returns are still due before the 31st of March 2020.
“As Sars we remain determined to safeguard the public’s confidence in our tax administration system during these unprecedented times. Collectively, we will ensure that the tax administration system of our Republic remains operational.”