Slight increase in wage offer to Sars employees

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has apologised “unreservedly” for delays in its service delivery due to the ongoing industrial action by unions.

Taxpayers and practitioners are unable to get appointments at certain branches, phone lines to the call centre for practitioners aren’t operating, and many branches remain closed. The impact on compliance is unclear.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) are demanding a 12% increase.

Slightly higher increase

Sars has increased its offer to permanent employees in the bargaining unit to 1.5% from the previous 1.3%.

Sars says the slight adjustment is possible since it is delaying the appointment of additional staff. The saving will be allocated towards the increased salary proposal.

The unions have taken the new offer to their members and the PSA has suspended its strike action. Nehawu remains on strike.

Sars has cautioned strikers who intimidate others and engage in violence that it will act against them. They must respect the rights of employees who choose to work as well as taxpayers trying to remain compliant.

Somaya Khaki, project director at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, says the institute met with Sars officials on Thursday (28 July) to determine the impact of the strike on taxpayers and practitioners.

Compliance concerns

Tax practitioners are unable to get appointments with Sars official on issues that cannot be dealt with or resolved on the online platforms.

There are also concerns about taxpayers who must register for tax, such as value-added tax (Vat), who are for some reason unable to do so on the online platforms, and cannot get hold of a Sars official to help them finalise the registration.

“They will not be able to submit a return as they are not yet on the system and they will not be able to make the payments on time. The system automatically imposes penalties and interest for non-compliance,” says Khaki.

Taxpayers will have to request a remittance for any penalties, citing the strike as the reason for the non-compliance.

However, the onus is on the taxpayer to prove that the strike impacted compliance. There has been a suggestion that Sars extend the deadlines in line with the duration of the strike.

“The entry points are there but it is at the back-end where people have to take the necessary action that we experience delays. There has to be some compromise, it needs to work both ways when it comes to situations like this,” Khaki adds.


Cecile Bothe, independent consultant at the South African Institute of Taxation (Sait), says at one stage during the industrial action that started on 12 July more than 40 of the 52 Sars branches were closed.

She says it unclear how long service delivery will be affected.

“We do expect that the turnaround times in many instances will not be in line with the Sars Service Charter.”

However, she does not foresee an extension of any of the submission deadlines, whether for the annual returns for individuals and trusts or for the July and August Vat returns and payments or employee’s tax return submissions and payments.

Yolisa Dyasi, tax technical consultant at Sait, says they are aware of several cases that need “manual intervention” such as a request for correction. “It requires a warm body to deal with the matter and we do anticipate delays with the finalisation of these cases.”

She says besides the strike there have been a number of other glitches with the Sars systems since the start of Filing Season on 1 July.

Read: Tax filing season off to a slow start due to technical issues

Other issues affecting taxpayers

The eFiling system was unresponsive for the first four days of the filing season, third party data – particularly from a medical fund – was duplicated, resulting in incorrect refunds being paid to taxpayers, and retirement annuity contributions were not prepopulated.

Dyasi warns taxpayers who received incorrect refunds not to spend the money. It will be recouped by Sars.

Sars was also not able to honour its promise of a 72-hour refund in many instances after the submission of a return. Bothe says this was caused by the seven-day cycle limit by Sars and the banks.

“If Sars released refunds and got to the cycle limit, it could not release more refunds. The process to get an agreement between Sars and the banks is quite long.”

Despite the strike and the glitches causing delays, neither Dyasi nor Bothe expect any extensions for taxpayers.