A dumbfounded taxpayer is knocked by the taxman for an outstanding amount of 49c.
And ordinary taxpayers are subjected to more tax audits, while the taxman takes longer to make repayments.
Tax practitioners who spoke to City Press say it is clear that every cent counts for the beleaguered SA Revenue Service (Sars), which will miss its tax collection target by an estimated R50bn this year.
Several practitioners say that between 80% and 90% of ordinary salaried workers are now audited, while in the past it was barely 20%.
Almost all ordinary salaried workers who must receive repayments are now audited, which means that Sars is asking for supporting documents for, for example, medical contributions and annuities, which are in any case indicated on IRP5s.
“It is just a box-ticking exercise because the data is there, but they are buying time,” said one practitioner.
“Last year, Sars’ guideline was that any processes for verifying or auditing returns would be completed within 30 days. Now it is suddenly 30 working days, which pushes it up to 42 calendar days.
“Also, the referral is only done after 30 days – that is, on the 31st or 32nd day.”
Another tax practitioner said that, from the beginning of the tax season to mid-August, repayments would take place quite quickly.
Even where supporting documents were requested, refunds were made within two weeks.
But this pattern started to change by August.
In a recent statement, Sars said most tax refunds were processed within 72 hours without an audit, and that in the seven months to the end of October, R120bn in tax refunds were paid.
The tax season for nonprovisional taxpayers submitting returns electronically via eFiling ends on November 24.
Practitioners complain that Sars is becoming increasingly threatening in its search for income.
They cite the following examples:
– One taxpayer’s return was submitted on October 24 and Sars assessed the customer on the same day.
According to Sars, the customer had to pay the outstanding amount by December 31.
But within 10 days, the client had already received two SMSes stating that the outstanding amount had to be paid to avoid legal action.
The tax practitioner lodged an objection because, according to their assessment, the client did not owe Sars anything.
– Another taxpayer paid his vaue-added tax (VAT) on time, but Sars charged fines and interest for “late payment”.
The tax practitioner provided Sars with proof that the money had been paid on time, but it was still rejected.
Sars said it would consider the request for a waiver of fines once the amount had been paid.
– Even if a payment is only one day late, a penalty of 10% is charged immediately. Previously, Sars was not so strict.
– A further frustration is that if any tax is outstanding, or even if an amount is in dispute, Sars will not issue a tax clearance certificate, without which you cannot submit tenders, for example.
Therefore, many people pay the disputed amount just to obtain the certificate.
And although you can claim a refund, it is very difficult to get the money from Sars once it is paid, a tax practitioner complained.
Two months ago, tax ombudsman Judge Bernard Ngoepe released a report that found that Sars was “unduly” delaying refunds of tax and VAT.
But this week, Sars executive Mark Kingon said that while mistakes had been made, the Receiver had never deliberately withheld any justified refunds.
Nonetheless, tax practitioners agree that taxpayers are becoming more and more dissatisfied about high taxes because they think the money is not being properly used.
They are asking their tax consultants to do everything legally possible and use all possible concessions to help them not to pay a cent more than they have to.
Riana De Lange, 12 November 2017, City Press, News24, Sars hunts 49c debt, viewed 17 November 2017.