Tax compliance among Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) has been forced into the spotlight by The South African Revenue Service (SARS) who in January launched a new monthly newsletter dedicated to the sector. The January issue covered the matter of tax compliance and revealed a number of new initiatives by SARS to streamline services and encourage smaller businesses to meet their tax obligations.
While SARS indicated that the aim of the new newsletter is to generally “share relevant information pertaining to your SMME’s tax affairs and interaction with SARS [and help] you better understand how to meet your compliance obligations” it’s clear that by so comprehensively dealing with compliance in the first issue SARS has earmarked the area as being of major concern and a focus going forward.
“Tax complexity itself is a kind of tax” (Max Baucus)
NOTE: Bear in mind that although many of the resources mentioned below are addressed by SARS to you as a private taxpayer, there is just no substitute for professional advice and assistance when it comes to matters of tax.
“SMME Connect # 1”, the January issue of a new SARS newsletter for SMMEs available here, has focused on the issues around tax compliance in the sector. In the letter SARS acknowledges problems around the pandemic that lead to increased difficulty for SMMEs attempting to meet their tax obligations saying, “We acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has impaired our ability to be physically ‘At Your Service’ as we had to limit the number of taxpayer visits at SARS branches and promote digital channels”. It adds, however, that the bulk of the problem comes from the fact that business owners in the sector either find their obligations difficult to understand, or are not aware of their obligations, and just what is required of them.
In acknowledging the problem SARS has also stated that its direct aim is to make the processes simpler, increase knowledge around requirements and ultimately to bring all SMMEs up to date on their tax compliance. This is what the letter, aligned with a new initiative called Vision 2024, sets out to correct.
Aligned with “Vision 2024”?
In March 2020 SARS introduced their new Vision 2024, which they said was an attempt to update the goals and services of SARS in order to improve efficiency and their ability to collect owed taxes.
“Our Vision 2024 is to build a smart modern SARS with unquestionable integrity admired by Government and public and our international peers. We proceed from the base that all taxpayers are honest and if we make it easy and seamless, compliance will increase simultaneously,” SARS said in a statement at the time.
In line with this, SARS’ new newsletter endeavours to not place blame for past non-compliance. The issue in fact begins with a number of startling stats on the SMME sector in the time of the pandemic. SARS says “95% of SMMEs reported a decrease in revenue attributed to the consumers’ inability to earn income” and that “90% of SMMEs are either struggling or temporarily closed”. The purpose of these stats is for SARS to say, “We understand your plight and aren’t out to get you.” It goes on to state that “When you comply with your tax obligations, you place your business at an advantage by eliminating the potential cost of non-compliance and administrative penalties.”
What are the changes?
In order to simplify the system and make it easier for SMMEs to meet their tax obligations SARS has introduced a number of new measures, initiatives and system upgrades.
The first step is to confirm your “tax compliance status.” This can be done by acquiring a tax compliance pin. The process for doing this is illustrated on a simple YouTube video. The pin can then be used by your accountant over the next 12 months to verify your compliance status.
In addition, SARS has also introduced an online query system designed at assisting taxpayers to raise queries with SARS without going into a SARS branch or calling the contact centre. The query system allows taxpayers to fill in a form and, amongst other things, request a tax number, submit supporting documents, submit a payment allocation, report new estate cases, register a tax representative, make tax compliance status requests and verify tax compliance status.
SARS has also introduced a new “Enhanced Debt Management” process, which will allow taxpayers to arrange debt repayments directly through eFiling for four separate tax types: Personal Income Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Value-Added Tax and Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE). Previously, taxpayers could only make payment arrangements via a debt collector who had been appointed by SARS, in person at a SARS branch, utilising the debt management regional email addresses, or on the My Compliance Profile (MCP) on eFiling.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.