THE South African Revenue Service (SARS) has warned that taxpayers who do not submit their tax returns will end up with a criminal record. In a statement, the revenue service said it had embarked on a new initiative with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prosecute non-compliant taxpayers, including prominent South Africans, who have failed to submit returns.“Taxpayers who are found guilty will end up with a criminal record. The initiative has already seen its first conviction in Port Shepstone last week,” the statement said.SARS said failure to submit a tax or VAT return is a criminal offence in terms of the Tax Admini-stration Act and Value-Added Tax legislation.“The campaign marks an intensification of SARS’s Outstanding Returns Project that was launched towards the end of last year when SARS aimed to raise awareness amongst taxpayers about outstanding tax returns. SARS has over the past few years experienced an increase in the non-submission of returns across all tax types, including PAYE, VAT, corporate income and personal income tax.At the end of March this year, SARS’s outstanding returns book showed that active taxpayers owed SARS approximately 30 million returns, in many cases showing that multiple outstanding returns were due by a single taxpayer. “The decision to resort to enforcement of compliance through criminal prosecution is a last resort. At this stage, 36 dockets have been handed over to the NPA.” The significant drop in the submission of returns was one of the key indicators pointing to decreased compliance and was highlighted by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene during the announcement of the tax revenue collection figures for the 2017/2018 financial year recently.