Pretoria — A total 5.66 million income tax returns were submitted during the 2012 tax season, said the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
In a statement on the preliminary outcomes of the 2012 tax season on Tuesday, SARS said the 5.66 returns received by 23 November - the deadline for submission - was 16.4% higher than in 2011. The total included 4.214 million returns from individuals for the 2012 tax year compared to the 3.688 million received in 2011.
Additionally the revenue service received 1.4 million outstanding returns from previous years which was 25% higher than the 1.09 million outstanding returns submitted by the 2011 deadline. According to SARS, this was an encouraging indicator that the administrative penalties that SARS imposes for outstanding returns are having the desired effect of improving levels of compliance.
"The level of tax compliance we have achieved in South Africa is unprecedented among developing countries, but also some developed nations. We are highly appreciative of the excellent cooperation that fellow citizens have given SARS, which is demonstrated by the rising levels of tax compliance and the greater timeliness with which taxpayers are submitting their returns," said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The annual tax season represents one of the biggest, direct engagements between a public institution of government and a growing body of millions of economically active citizens.
"As a contribution to our economy and household incomes, nearly 400 000 more individuals received refunds this year than in 2011," added Gordhan.
A total 86% of returns were filed on time in 2012, nearly 3% higher than in 2011.
"Six years into the modernisation journey of the income tax system the migration from paper or manual returns to electronic submission - via eFiling or at a SARS branch office - is almost absolute with 99.86% of all returns submitted electronically. Only 5 529 manual returns were submitted this year compared to 32 071 in 2011 and 123 674 in 2010," said SARS.
The revenue service assisted taxpayers at branch offices to submit 2.59 million returns electronically while returns submitted on eFiling by taxpayers themselves totalled 3.08 million which is 11.2% higher than in 2011.
Electronic submission has enabled SARS to further improve its turnaround times with 99.58 of returns assessed in 24 hours.
"This year 93% of all returns submitted were assessed within 3 seconds. Faster assessment of returns has made it possible for SARS to pay income tax refunds quicker than before.
Refunds of R14.55 billion were paid in 2012 which is R1.87 billion higher than the 2011 figure of R12.68 billion. This year SARS paid 94.5% of all refunds within 72 hours with the average refund per taxpayer amounting to R6 272.
Some 646 559 new taxpayers registered and filed their tax returns for the first time in 2012.
Nearly 400 000 more individuals received refunds this year than in 2011. This is a direct contribution to the economy and household incomes.
Payments from taxpayers this year amounted to R3.69 billion which is R236 million more than the R3.45 billion paid in 2011.
In 2012, SARS issued 5.2 million penalty notices to approximately 486 000 taxpayers with outstanding returns from previous years.
"Such punitive measures are necessary to ensure fairness between the growing body of compliant taxpayers who submitted 5.66 million by this year's deadline and those who remain non-compliant.
"SARS wants to urge taxpayers who have not yet submitted a return - for any tax year - to submit these as soon as possible to limit or avoid further administrative penalties, starting at R250-00 per month, from being imposed or from escalating further," said SARS spokesperson Adrian Lackay.