More than 30 tax offices across the country remained closed on Thursday (21 July), with the South African Revenue Service (Sars) acknowledging delays in servicing taxpayers due to the strike by its unionised workers.
Despite admitting delays, Sars says it does not envisage changing tax season submission deadlines at this stage.
Read: Tax filing season off to a slow start due to technical issues
“Taxpayers have had access to all our digital channels to file returns during the strike,” it said in response to Moneyweb questions.
Provisional taxpayers must file their first estimation for the 2023 tax year and make a payment by the end of August. Non-provisional taxpayers must file their annual returns by 24 October.
Delays with appointments
Tax practitioners and taxpayers have experienced delays in virtual appointments with Sars officials, sometimes waiting more than two hours before being able to make contact.
Sars says it has been transparent about the fact that the strike could impact appointment bookings. “However, we have committed to honouring all bookings – even if they are sometimes slightly delayed,” it adds.
Read: Tax season will be shorter this year
The unions – the Public Service Association (PSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) – embarked on their strike more than a week ago, calling Sars leadership and the commissioner “intransigent” and “arrogant”.
The unions demand an increase of 12% across the board, pandemic leave of 10 working days a year, a R2 000 gift as a token of appreciation and better housing and medical aid allowances.
Sars has remained steadfast in its offer of 1.39%.
The South African Reserve Bank raised its key repo rate by 75 basis points on the heels of a higher-than-expected June headline inflation figure of 7.4%. This will most probably fuel workers’ demands for higher wage increases.
Sarb announces sharper 75bp repo rate hike
Sars and striking workers no closer to an agreement
The PSA said in an earlier statement that failure to allocate additional money to Sars will bring the economy to its knees as “Sars employees can no longer be treated like slaves”.
Nehawu called Sars Commissioner Edward Kieswetter “intransigent” when he “misled” workers by paying them the performance bonuses that were due to them as if it was a new offer of the employer. It has been left with no option other than to mobilise its mass power and take its battle to the streets, the union said.
It also accused Sars of allowing the country to lose revenue due to the inability to curb illicit trade because of a lack of controls at border posts.
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Sars responded by saying the borders are fully functional since there are contingency plans in place.
Physical inspections of goods would continue “as normal”, with inspection finalisation being centralised and managed on a 24-hour basis, it said in an earlier statement.
Situation not unmanageable
A former Sars employee who did not want to be named told Moneyweb that the Sars customs division is already weak. The workers who are striking are most probably the same ones who went on strike before.
He adds that there are still some very loyal and diligent people working at the coalface no matter the circumstances. He says the eFiling system has been operational and would not describe the situation at Sars as being “unmanageable”.
Sars employees, from the cleaners up, are well compensated, he said. “They will strike, but they will never leave.”
Negotiations are ongoing, says Sars.
Read: Exclusive: R6bn plan to overhaul SA’s busiest border posts