The audit and tax firm Mazars says many of its clients are now getting tax refunds within 48 hours of filing their returns.
"The new eFiling platform that SARS launched at the start of July has proven to be significantly more user-friendly and easier to navigate. At the same time, we have also seen very positive outcomes for taxpayers claiming for tax refunds, with many of our clients seeing their refunds being released within 48 hours," says Zané Gerber, assistant tax compliance manager at Mazars.
Gerber reports that anecdotally, delays of income tax refunds seem to be less common this year. "In the instances where we have seen refunds being delayed, it has been for valid reasons.
"Most often, the delays relate to the verification of information disclosed or invalid banking details. Most refunds are cleared quite quickly once these issues have been resolved, and only in cases where an audit is still in progress, will refunds be delayed for longer periods."
According to the office of SA’s Tax Ombud, most complaints from SA taxpayers are about late payments of refunds, something the office said "diminished taxpayers' confidence in the tax administration system".
The Nugent commission last year heard testimony that SARS deliberately withheld refunds to boost its performance.
eFiling problems solved
In July, the launch of the new eFiling platform saw some teething problems.
One of the early issues was that users did not have access to income tax assessments and account statements. “However, that was resolved relatively quickly, which is reassuring,” says Gerber.
Gerber acknowledges that communicating with SARS on specific problems can still be "tricky", but taxpayers are seeing some improvements.
"Although the SARS Call Centre can be a challenging channel to communicate with SARS, the branch offices tend to deliver more fruitful results in obtaining the guidance and information required."
Compiled by Helena Wasserman