SARS on Nugent: eFiling system not on verge of collapse

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has dismissed any perception that its eFiling system is on the verge of collapse, saying the system was stable and "performing well within specification".

This as the Nugent Inquiry heard damning testimony this week in terms of the ailing technology at the revenue service.

SARS said in a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, "The perception created that the eFiling system is on the verge of collapse is incorrect, and unfortunately has the effect of creating unnecessary alarm and uncertainty."

The Presidency on Tuesday released the interim report of Judge Robert Nugent's commission of inquiry into tax administration and governance. Nugent noted, based on evidence presented, that after suspended SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane arrived in 2014, efforts made over the years to modernise systems had been stopped. "Now only adjustments and adaptations are made to the systems from time to time, while the systems themselves degenerate as technology advances," the report read.

The Nugent Inquiry also heard from a former SARS executive, Andre Scheepers, who was part of the IT division. He shared that the lack of investment in IT modernisation moved the organisation backwards.

In response to the testimonies heard in the inquiry, SARS said, "The concern expressed by SARS executives testifying at the SARS Commission of Inquiry, centred around the compatibility of eFiling and web browsers toward the year 2020 timeframe. 

"This concern is associated to a future risk and not a reflection on the current capacity, functionality or stability of SARS’s systems."

According to SARS, so far 3.3 million tax returns have been filed this tax season and 50.4% were done so through eFiling. 

"The platform has handled an average traffic volume of 25 000 tax returns daily," SARS said.

The eFiling system has the capacity to process "high transaction volumes," the revenue service said, and encouraged taxpayers to continue using the system to file their returns ahead of the October 31 deadline.

SARS has also extended operating hours to Saturday mornings  for those filing personal income tax returns. Taxpayers can also use the Help-You-eFile function, in which a SARS tax agent can help the taxpayer file.

"We are confident in the digital and technology enhancements we have in place and those we have planned for the future to remain on par with industry best practice," SARS concluded.   

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