The South African Revenue Service (Sars) has announced it will be introducing a number of new service offerings from 1 September to assist taxpayers in the next phase of individual filing season.
Sars emphasized that as far as possible, taxpayers are discouraged to go to their offices, but should continue to use the online electronic filing platform. Those needing assistance may also book with one of their agents via a virtual appointment for a guided filing experience to complete their submission.
“While we are determined to minimise the numbers of walk-in taxpayers at our branches, we are also prepared, as an absolute exception, to address the concerns of taxpayers who don’t have access to any technology, or who struggle with data issues,” Sars said.
From 1 September to 22 October 2020, taxpayers can visit Sars branches for assistance with completing and submitting their tax returns. However, they can only do so by making an appointment, due to social distancing requirements under lockdown regulations.
To help, Sars is introducing the following:
- A toll-free number for taxpayers to call and make branch appointments. The number to call is 0800 11 7277. Operating hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8am to 4pm, and on Wednesdays from 9am to 4pm.
- Enhancements to the current eBooking system on the Sars website. From 1 September, the eBooking system will give the taxpayer confirmation in real-time of their booking slot with their case number and also advise them of supporting documents that they may need to take along with them for their appointment. Since 24 July 2020, there have already been 14 201 eBookings made via the Sars website.
- With both the toll-free number and the online eBooking system, taxpayers will have the option of booking a virtual session with a Sars agent – via video or voice call. This would especially be helpful for the elderly, disabled or those who live far from a tax office. If they choose the video option, taxpayers will be sent a link to the video call which they can access on the day of the appointment. For video calls, taxpayers will need to have either a smartphone with a camera or a Personal Computer (PC) with a camera to start and conclude a video appointment. No special software is needed for this virtual engagement.
Sars says it will be calling certain taxpayers who have been sent auto-assessment SMSes and have not responded. The call will be to ascertain why they have not accepted their auto assessments and to help them either to accept or edit their return and submit it on their behalf. These taxpayers:
- Have all been auto-assessed;
- Have a refund due to them;
- Submitted their returns at a branch last year;
- Have not responded to an auto-assessment SMS.
Sars says by 31 July 2020, it had sent over 3 million auto-assessment SMS’s to taxpayers. As of 27 August, 500 322 taxpayers had accepted the auto-assessment outcome thus far. This means that 51% of those who had been selected for auto-assessment, and have already filed, accepted the outcome, while 49% elected to edit and submit their return.
Sars says they have been monitoring their social media channels and have noticed the following:
- Some taxpayers have complained about the lengthy waiting times when they call the Contact Centre, which is often the case during this early phase of filing season. However, taxpayers can use other query channels instead of calling the Contact Centre, namely: go to the Sars website (www.sars.gov.za), click on Contact Us > Contact SARS by email/fax or post.
- Refund timeframes: Taxpayers are reminded that if their assessment was not selected for audit or verification, they can expect a refund (if it is due) within three business days. If selected for audit or verification, the process should be concluded within 21 business days from the date all required supporting documents are received. Once they have received a completion notification from Sars, they can expect the refund within three business days.
- There is a lot of queries about people being rejected for Sassa grants as it states they are registered with Sars for PAYE or are receiving an income. According to Sassa, to qualify for the grant, you need to be unemployed (not having any source of income) and not receive any other grants. Should this not be correct, those affected should email Sassa on email@example.com.
Sars asked that taxpayers should try to file from the comfort of their home – if you need help, visit their website www.sars.gov.za, call their contact centre on 0800 00 7277 or the new toll-free number 0800 11 7277 to make branch bookings.
(Compiled by Carina Koen)