A total 5.6 million tax returns were submitted, while R18.5 billion worth of refunds were paid to individuals at the close of the tax season for non-provisional taxpayers, said the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

The revenue service saw a 26% increase from last year in refunds as R18.5 billion was paid to 2.22 million taxpayers.

These refunds apply to returns filed for the 2016/17 tax year, which have been submitted during tax season 2017 (1 July � 24 November). In total, R19.8 billion in refunds has been paid to individuals for this financial year to date, inclusive of prior year returns, directly contributing to household incomes and the domestic economy, said the revenue service on Sunday.

The submissions received comprised of the following:

4.289 million returns filed for the relevant tax year, 2016/17, which sees an increase of 3.1% from last year’s figure of 4.16 million;

1.28 million returns filed for prior years – 1.19% less than last year’s figure of 1.48 million;

44 782 submissions by trusts for the 2016/17 tax year and

53 054 submissions by trusts for prior years.

SARS’ Commissioner Tom Moyane thanked taxpayers for submitting their returns.

SARS wishes to express its appreciation to all those taxpayers, who submitted their tax returns before the deadline. Paying tax is the highest form of patriotism. With this in mind, SARS wishes to assert that the organization remains resolute, focused and single-minded about meeting our revenue collection target for South Africa, said SARS.

A total 94% of expected returns from individuals were submitted on time, exceeding last year’s rate of 91%. The returns expected are informed by last year’s submissions and IRP5 information from employers, excluding provisional taxpayers.

The introduction of e-DNA ensured the biometric authentication of taxpayers and the increased security of personal information. This has significantly reduced the payment of refunds into fraudulent accounts, said SARS.

Provisional taxpayers have until 31 January 2018 to file their tax returns via eFiling.

Fraud prevention

During tax season 2017, SARS prevented R2.7 billion in fraudulent claims in the Personal Income Tax environment, saving the fiscus from potential revenue loss. This was a R900 million (50%) improvement from last year where R1.8 billion in fraudulent claims was prevented during the same period.

Extended operating hours and uptake in digital channels

Due to high volumes, SARS branches and the Contact Centre extended operating hours over the tax season, with selected branches countrywide opening on Saturdays, assisting in excess of 50 000 taxpayers to file outside of normal working hours.

There was a notable increase in the uptake of SARS’ digital channels such as the recently introduced Help-you-eFile service on eFiling and the SARS mobi app, facilitating the migration from going to a branch to the use of online channels that offer the taxpayer a leisurely and convenient means of filing.

SARS also introduced Help-you-eFile, a service that allows eFilers instant access to a SARS tax agent by clicking a button if they required assistance while on their own eFiling profile.

A total of 234 666 taxpayers used the Help You e-File channel, which was 35% higher than last year. Meanwhile, 47 605 taxpayers submitted their 2017 tax returns using the SARS mobi app, a 7.3% increase from last year.

SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane also thanked the revenue services’ employees for making tax season successful.

The focus, discipline and selfless service of the men and women of SARS is what makes SARS one of the best revenue services in the world, he said.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba launched the 2017 tax season in Soweto in July. At the time, SARS announced that it is targeting revenue collection of R1.265 trillion.

Source: South African Government News Agency