New SARS boss worried about key target

The new head of SARS, Mark Kingon. Picture: Bethesda Outreach
The new head of SARS, Mark Kingon. Picture: Bethesda Outreach

Acting SA Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Mark Kingon is having sleepless nights over meeting the tax revenue target for the 2018 fiscal year, which ends this month.

SARS set itself a revised target of R1.217 trillion, which is R48bn short of the 2016 budget speech goal of R1.265 trillion. SARS said it had collected R1 trillion in tax by February 22, leaving the organisation with five weeks to collect the remaining R217bn.

Kingon was appointed on Monday night, after President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended Tom Moyane for allegedly bringing SARS into disrepute.

“You want to know one of my sleepless night issues – that is one of my key focus areas. We want to deliver. I would like to deliver more [than the target].

“I’ve got teams operating around the clock. We are doing our damnedest to get there.

“Many of these things are sensitive and you must also understand our mandate. I wouldn’t want to go further than that.”

He said he and Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene would reveal more at a press briefing on April 3.

“At this stage I’m not having total sleepless nights but I’m having sleepless nights.”

In the budget speech, a target of a 10.1% revenue hike in the 2019 tax year – when compared with the tax collection target of R1.217 trillion for the 2018 tax year – was set.

The last time government achieved a hike in revenue of the order of 10% was in the 2014 tax year.

He said a number of factors were considered in setting the 2019 tax target, including concessions in personal income tax for lower earners.

“The big issue is that we got the hike in VAT on April 1. Obviously that is going to be a contributing factor. There are green shoots in various parts of the economy. There are risks in various parts of the economy, like the agricultural sector in the Western Cape.”

The goal was an ambitious one, he acknowledged. “It’s going to be difficult [to achieve the 2019 tax target]. We need a fundamental shift in our economy. We are going to do our best.”

Turning to his appointment as acting SARS commissioner, Kingon said: “It is important that acting means not permanent.”

He said he would make sure that public confidence in SARS was restored.

“There are many facets that influence compliance, including public perception and, obviously, the economy with regards to businesses that are struggling. What is in our control is our image.

“We want to work with excellence so that people have trust in the revenue service. We are not malicious when we do something – we are doing it for the right purpose and governed by the law.”

He said loss of skills at SARS was a perennial problem.

“We are in competition with the private sector for tax skills. Skills have left, but we still have excellent people.”

Kingon welcomed and said SARS would cooperate with the commission of inquiry that Ramaphosa announced last month.

“I’m more than confident that we will be prepared for that and we will do it properly. Obviously we want to improve the administration of SARS. We will see what the terms of reference are when they do come out.”

“My motto is ‘do the right thing’. I want to make sure we apply good governance rules. I always have tax law on my table. I want to make sure we are applying that. The commissioner needs to ensure that everything we do and say is within the framework of tax legislation.”

He said he would stay on as SARS commissioner if asked to do so.

“If I’m asked to serve, I will always serve. If someone else is put into the job, I will serve that commissioner, as I have served many other commissioners to the best of my ability. At this stage, I can’t say yes or no.”

There is speculation that former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas could become the next commissioner.

“If he was appointed commissioner tomorrow – I knew Mr Jonas in his capacity as deputy finance minister and we had quite a bit of involvement with him over the years when he was deputy minister – I would have no hesitation to serve him,” Kingon said.

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