Pretoria - SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane encouraged his staff to make paying taxes "cool" on Friday.
Moyane was addressing staff and officials at the Sars head office in Brooklyn ahead of their walk through the streets of Tshwane to launch the tax filing season.
Tax filing season officially started on Friday, July 1 and Sars will be holding a number of "walk initiatives" until November to raise public awareness. The "walking for tax" initiative will create an opportunity for Sars officials to meet members of the public and hand out information about the tax return process. This includes informing citizens on whether they qualify to file tax or not.
"The objective we want to achieve is the connection between Sars and the taxpayers, physically," Moyane told Fin24. "It is an unorthodox approach. Instead of issuing pamphlets we want to be visible."
Moyane believes this will introduce a "warm element" of Sars to the public. "We are getting Sars officials involved because the public has the perception that officials are not human beings," added Jonas Makwakwa, chief officer for business and individual tax at Sars.
Sars will raise awareness among the public and staff will share information the public may need, explained Makwakwa. "We want to show them that they are doing the right thing by submitting tax return forms."
The 11.75km walk in Tshwane is symbolic of the R1.75bn target set by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, explained Moyane. "We hope as we March we will get more impetus from taxpayers."
Achieving this goal is subject to the economy's performance through the generation of jobs and less retrenchments he explained.
WATCH: Sars officials walk the streets of Pretoria
Tax submissions have improved since the introduction of eFiling. Last year, the majority (99.96%) of returns were filed electronically through eFiling and electronically assisted filing at a Sars branch or a mobile tax unit. Manual submissions were reduced to less than 2 000, that’s 0.04% of total submissions.
"We hope to introduce mobile applications for people to file tax," added Moyane. And Sars is also working on making it easier for people with visual impairments to submit returns.
Last year, Sars paid out 1.82m refunds to the value of R15bn. Total submissions came to 5.94m, this was 11.52% higher than the previous year. About 4m of these returns were from individuals and 1.69m were outstanding returns from previous years.
"We want tax to be something cool and not invasive. There should be no fear or phobia," said Moyane.
Seen during the walk (Photos: Lameez Omarjee)
Sars boss Tom Moyane hands out a information pamphlet to a shopkeeper in Sunnyside, Pretoria.
Sars officials begin their walk in Pretoria.
The Sars officials getting some serious exercise.
Sars boss Tom Moyane leads his team through the streets of Pretoria.
Sars boss Tom Moyane applauds his team for the good work they do at Sars.