Sars boss must fix ‘broken spirits’

Edward Kieswetter, the new commissioner at Sars, has a hard job ahead
Edward Kieswetter, the new commissioner at Sars, has a hard job ahead

New SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter has said he inherited a broken-spirited organisation filled with tension.

“When a policy is wrong, it is easy to fix. What is hardest to fix is the spirit of people. Sadly, I have found that many of our staff have lost trust in the leadership. Many of them have a broken spirit and we have unfortunately created a culture of fear and intimidation. Racial tension is high in the organisation,” he said, adding that he has opened a communication platform to address some of the issues.

Kieswetter said: “When I talk about racial tension, I am not talking about black people versus white people.

“When I say there is tension, it is the lack of trust, integrity and a culture of fear, as well as racial inequity that creates a climate that is unhelpful and unhealthy.”

Kieswetter said he was not in a rush to establish a specialised unit to target specific illicit economy activities in the tobacco and fuel industries but would establish a “dedicated capacity” within a month or two.

Read: New Sars boss targets tax evaders, Moyane’s ‘bad apples’

“It’s not about the unit. It’s about understanding that we need to respond appropriately within our mandate and with the right skills and competence.

“So it’s not about the unit but about the work,” he said.

He said his immediate predecessor, Mark Kingon, who was acting Sars commissioner, had taken decisions at the time to create capacity. However, he said he would take a different approach.

At a conference held last week, Kieswetter announced that the organisation had decided to move the threshold for filing of tax returns from the current R350 000 to R500 000, subject to qualifiers.

For those taxpayers, Kieswetter said, a decision had been taken to reduce their burden of having to visit Sars branches.

Instead, they would receive a computer-generated estimate as if they had filed a return.

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