SARS vows to intensify criminal action against late payers

Cape Town - The SA Revenue Service (SARS) will intensify criminal proceedings against tax offenders from October, it said on Thursday.

The revenue service has been attempting to make sure taxpayers file their returns on time with the slogan "pay your taxes or pay the price".

The reason for the intended clampdown was an "increase in taxpayers not submitting their tax returns by the stipulated deadlines", and not settling their outstanding debt with the revenue collection agency, SARS said in a statement. 

It said this was not limited to the current tax year, but included substantial non-compliance across previous tax years.

Pay up on time 

The revenue service said that, in terms of the Tax Administration Act, it was a criminal offence not to submit a tax return for personal income tax, corporate income tax, pay as you earn and value added tax or VAT.

It said that failure to submit returns within the relevant period would result in fines imposed on a monthly basis per outstanding return, or even "criminal prosecution resulting in imprisonment".

"Should any return result in a tax debt it must be paid before the relevant due date to avoid any interest for late payment and legal action,' it said. 

SARS urged taxpayers to rectify their compliance by submitting any outstanding returns at their nearest SARS Branch or via SARS eFiling.

Missing target

Earlier this month Fin24 reported that SARS allegedly missed its first-quarter tax revenue target by R13.1bn. If this trend continues, it would miss its overall target by about R50bn in 2017. SARS set a collection target of R1.265trn for the year.
 
A shortfall of this scale would have a severe impact on Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s mini budget in October, where he will need to find extra revenue to allocate to social grants, state-owned entities, departments, provinces and municipalities.

SA's 2017 budget started the year with a deficit of R149bn, which was 3.1% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

* SARS announced on Thursday that it will be extending its office hours at selected branches throughout the country to Saturdays between 08:00 and 13:00 from 30 September until 18 November 2017.

The extended hours will prioritise queries specifically related to income tax returns. 

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