New digital tools for tax filing

Income tax filing season opens tomorrow, and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) will again be encouraging you to file your 2011/12 tax return electronically.

To help you to complete your return electronically, SARS will unveil a range of new tools and software for internet, tablet and smartphone users on Monday, when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula will officially open the 2012 filing season.

If you want to be an early filer, as of tomorrow you can eFile your tax return from SARS’s eFiling website, www.sarsefiling.co.za

When SARS’s branches open on Monday, they will be able to assist you to complete your income tax return electronically.

SARS agents at the branches will guide you through filling in your return if you have any concerns about filing your return electronically.

Last year, SARS branches countrywide helped more than 1.5 million taxpayers to submit their returns electronically.  But if you have access to a computer, a tablet or a smartphone and would prefer not to brave the cold weather, or the queues or the parking problems that may face you if you visit a SARS branch, you may want to wait until the new SARS tools are up and running so you can use them.

The “2012 Tax Season Guide” on SARS’s website (www.sars.gov.za) says that one of the four innovations SARS has planned is online access to trained agents.

According to the guide, you will be able to access a facility known as Help-You-eFile while you eFile. This will enable you to share with a SARS agent the internet browser window that displays your electronic return. The agent will talk you through completing your return and help you with any difficulties you are experiencing.

The guide also says SARS plans to launch a mobisite from which you will be able to file your return using a cellphone that can access the internet. The guide says when you visit www.sarsefiling.co.za using your cellphone’s internet browser, you will automatically be directed to SARS’s mobisite.

A third tool you may want to use if you have a smartphone or a tablet is the eFiling application (app). According to the guide, the new eFiling app will be available soon.

And lastly, SARS has put together some videos that will be available on YouTube (youtube.com/sarstax). The videos show how Riaan, “an ordinary guy in an ordinary office”, registers for eFiling, submits his income tax return, and how he scans supporting documents that SARS asks him to submit.

SARS says that last year more than 99 percent of the almost five million returns that were submitted were filed electronically.

SARS is no longer sending out paper returns, but this does not mean you cannot choose to file a paper return.

If you want to file a paper return, you must ask SARS to post a pre-populated return to you by calling the SARS Contact Centre on 0800 00 72 77, or you can visit a SARS branch and complete an Income Tax Return Request (ITRR) form.

All tax returns are pre-populated with information that SARS obtained from your employer during the recent employers’ filing season and from third parties, such as your bank, investment house or pension provider.

Stiaan Klue, chief executive of the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners, warns you should take note of the tax return deadlines, because failure to submit your return by the due date will result in very steep administrative penalties.

SARS is imposing penalties on those taxpayers who do not submit their returns and/or have failed to update their personal details, such as their address or banking details, with SARS, Klue says.

Penalties start at R250 and are applied for each month you fail to meet the required deadline.

Klue says you should also be aware that SARS can appoint an agent, such as your employer, to collect the outstanding penalties and interest amounts from you and pay them over to SARS.

For more information on the 2012 filing season, visit www.sars.gov.za and follow the links to the “Tax season” webpage.

Klue says although the wizard is helpful, you need to be sure you are familiar with the terminology it uses so you can accurately answer the questions. If you are in any doubt, seek the help of a professional tax adviser, because ignorance cannot be used as an excuse for not complying with the law, he says.

You can also obtain help from SARS by calling the SARS Contact Centre on 0800 00 72 77.

If you are a first-time taxpayer, you need to register and get a tax number. Only once you have a tax number can you register for eFiling and fill in your return online.

TAXtalk: www.taxtalkblog.com

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