Early birds put SARS staff under pressure

2010-07-28 00:00

THE tax season is in full swing, and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is impressed with the growing number of taxpayers submitting their income tax returns early.

“We appreciate that more taxpayers are coming in early to submit their tax returns,” said SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay.

He said an average of 800 taxpayers visit SARS in Pietermaritzburg daily to submit their returns.

“To improve our services and accommodate the influx of people coming to submit their returns, we have employed 15 temporary staff, expanded our working stations to 28 and we now use both the first and the second floor to ensure that there are no more queues outside our offices,” Lackay said.

So far this year, SARS has received about 582 000 tax returns, which is about 1 000 more than in 2009.

A taxpayer who wished to remain anonymous said, “I must emphasise that I am almost invariably impressed by the courtesy and efficiency shown by SARS staff — right from the security staff upwards.”

He said he often wishes that some of the other branches of government would train their staff in the same way.

“I do think, however, that SARS should at least put adequate air conditioning in the holding room.”

He said a consultant he spoke to said they already have 15 extra temporary staff to deal with the additional workload as “filing season” progresses towards November.

“More space and more staff, air conditioning as the hot season beckons … especially as you say it [receiving 800 tax payers] is occurring on a regular basis,” said the anonymous source.

He complained that the national call centre has failed to resolve his queries and that he has been told to call at his local office instead.

“As a taxpayer whose local tax office is about an hour’s drive away, this entails two hours’ travelling time plus untold hours in the SARS queue.”

In response to the complaints, Lackay said, “Now it takes about 35 minutes before one is helped because of the big queues. However, it takes about nine to 15 minutes to complete the tax returns.”

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