Address by Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service Mr Oupa Magashula on the occasion of the official opening of the SARS Nelspruit branch
17 Apr 2012Introduction
The Honourable Premier of Mpumalanga, Mr David Mabuza who is represented here tonight the by MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Mr Norman Mokoena. A very warm welcome to you and please accept our deep appreciation for taking the time to be with us this evening. You honour us by officiating at the opening of the new SARS Nelspruit branch. I would also like to welcome the other dignitaries who we are honoured to have with us tonight including: The national chairperson for the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Ms Hellen Thrush The provincial chairperson of the South African Institute for Professional Accountants (SAIPA) Mr Wihan van Wyk The CEO of the Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative Mrs Barbara Mommen, Members of the local business community Members of the local tax practitioner community My SARS EXCO colleagues and SARS regional and branch leadershipStaff of the SARS Nelspruit branch.
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us this evening for the official opening of this magnificent new SARS branch in the capital city of your beautiful province Mpumalanga. This is such a beautiful part of our country and indeed the world. I chose to drive here today from Pretoria to enjoy the spectacular scenery of your province and as always it did not disappoint! Where else can you find such natural beauty and such warm and friendly people? You can rightly claim to be the gateway to a natural paradise, one of our country’s major tourist destinations a special place indeed. It goes to show that our surroundings are a very important part of our lives. That is why today we are here to officially open the new SARS Nelspruit branch. The new branch For the past 24 years, the branch was housed in the Nedbank Building in the City Centre, occupying the 6th and 7th floors. Serving taxpayers from that location presented a myriad of challenges for both our staff and taxpayers, including the lack of visibility of the office, the limited workspace and waiting areas available and access to parking. When I last visited the old branch it was in the middle of our annual Tax Season and taxpayers had filled the staircases as they waited to meet their obligations. It is still one of the truly amazing and uplifting things for me to see taxpayers queuing patiently to pay their tax! But we cannot take for granted this generosity of spirit and this commitment of the taxpayers of our country. Making things as easy and convenient as possible for taxpayers to meet their obligations is a cornerstone of sustaining and improving compliance.
That is why we have moved to this impressive new facility. Where our old branch had only eight (8) counters and five (5) consulting rooms to assist taxpayers, this new branch is equipped with 28 counters and eight (8) consulting rooms, as well as many more seats for taxpayers.
In addition the new location is more accessible from the public transport routes and has considerably more parking. Ladies and gentlemen These improvements are already bearing fruit. Over the past two years the old Nelspruit branch had been rendering services to an average of 160 000 taxpayers a year or 600 taxpayers a day. But since the opening of the new branch in October last year during our peak Tax Season period, SARS staff are now helping over 700 taxpayers a day, an increase of nearly 17%. And they are serving taxpayers quicker than ever. Let me congratulate the branch manager Pauline Booysen and her team for the excellent work they have done so far since moving here in October. Driving compliance through improved service and convenience Honoured guests. The opening of the new Nelspruit branch of SARS is evidence of our commitment to improving our service to the South African taxpayer to make it easier for them to comply with their tax and customs obligations. Over the past few years we have opened several new branches and renovated several others. We have introduced mobile offices in some areas and we have modernised and simplified our systems. Of course, the ultimate convenience is being able to meet your obligations from your office or home…and our eFiling and other electronic payment and submission platforms for tax and Customs transactions have provided millions of taxpayers and traders the tools to manage the tax affairs from anywhere. During last year’s Tax Season, over 2,2 million returns or about 60% of all returns were submitted to SARS via eFiling and a further one and a half million taxpayers were assisted in submitting returns at our branches.
Interestingly, we conducted research in our branches last year to find out why taxpayers were visiting branches. Fifty-two percent of visits to our branches relate to submitting an income tax return or supporting documents associated with it. Both these functions can be done via the internet. We assumed that those visiting our branches had not access to computers or the internet. But when we asked visitors to our branches whether this was the reason they were visiting a branch we were surprised. Sixty seven percent of taxpayers visiting a branch to submit their tax returns did have access to the internet and 58% know about eFiling or have even tried using it before! So why choose to get in your car or public transport, drive to the branch and then queue for help? It turns out that a lot of taxpayers are scared of making a mistake and that they will then get in trouble with SARS. So they would rather we help them so they know they’ve got it right. So we sat down and asked ourselves: How can we hold taxpayers’ hands while they file their returns at home or at their office via eFiling? That would be the ultimate in both service and convenience. Ladies and gentlemen We have found a very exciting solution which we plan to pilot during this year’s Tax Season. It’s a technology application which allows an agent at our call centre when given permission by the taxpayer, to have sight of exactly what they are doing on eFiling in real time. So our agents can talk the taxpayer through the entire process of registering for eFiling, completing their return, submitting their return and a host of other eFiling services. They can correct them when they see the taxpayer making a mistake and show them exactly what to do. I saw a demonstration of the prototype last week and I am very excited about the ability this is going to give us to help taxpayers wherever they may be!
Improving our service and assistance to taxpayers and traders is part of a model that we follow to encourage compliance. Our research – and that of revenue authorities around the world shows that the vast majority of people want to do the right thing. All they need is the knowledge on how to do it and the tools to make it as easy and convenient as possible. Technology is one of the ways we are doing this. But technology can never replace the power of human interaction. That is why in conjunction with our development of technology, we are also modernising and expanding our branch network to take our service to the people. The importance of Mpumalanga This new branch serves not only the people of Nelspruit and the Mbombela municipality. It is our flagship branch in Mpumalanga and provides service to a large portion of your province. Mpumalanga is an important contributor to the national revenue fund which supports our nation’s programme of socio-economic development. In the 2010/11 financial year this province contributed R4.6 billion in personal income tax and in the financial year that just ended at the beginning of this month this contribution grew to more than R5.1 billion. Companies registered with the local branches also contributed approximately R5.7 billion in income tax and VAT last year. This does not include the significant contribution of the largest Mpumalanga companies which are serviced by our Large Business Centre and therefore don’t reflect on the provincial total. I must also add that while we do collect revenue, we also pay out refunds. Here in Nelspruit we paid out almost R900 million in VAT refunds to vendors, which is an important cash injection into your local economy.
Mpumalanga as a province is also a gateway for trade with Mozambique and Swaziland. The Lebombo border post is South Africa’s second busiest after Beit Bridge. For the period January to December 2011 the total trade between SA and Mozambique totalled R25, 1 billion of which R9, 5 billion (38%) went through Lebombo. The main import commodities are fuel; fruit; steel tubes and pipes and the main export commodities are cane or beet sugar; steel rods or bars; coal and maize. Each year a total of 4.6 million people, 730 000 vehicles and 87 000 trucks cross the border at Lebombo into Mozambique. And your borders with Swaziland are also seeing increased trade. The value of imports and export between South Africa and Swaziland has increased by 27% between 2009 and today, now totalling some R20 billion a year. Each year a total of 2.6 million people, 870 000 vehicles and 130 000 trucks cross between our countries, of which just over half travel through the Oshoek border post. The Maputo Corridor, which links the province with Gauteng and Maputo in Mozambique is the first international toll road in Africa and has brought about a new era in terms of economic development and growth for the region. In fact in his State of the Province address delivered in February this year, the premier mentioned that your provincial economy is growing at 3.1 per cent. He added that Mpumalanga was the fifth largest regional contributor to the national Growth Domestic Product (GDP). Indeed something to be proud of. Conclusion Friends, colleagues This new branch gives us the foundation and facility to provide the kind of service which taxpayers, practitioners and other stakeholders deserve and expect and which we can rightly feel proud of. But it is only a building and eFiling and SARS Service Manager are only systems. The SARS logo reads: SARS.
At Your Service
Service is provided by people. It is provided by people who are passionate. By people who are dedicated. By people who believe in what we are doing and in thegreater good and higher purpose of our calling. It is provided by people who act with unwavering integrity, professionalism and conviction. It is provided by the people in this room. Your challenge is to continue to live up to the reputation we have created as an organisation which is efficient, effective, corruption-free and above all which cares for the people of our country. Thank you. And now, ladies and gentlemen, it my great privilege and pleasure to invite the MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Norman Mokoena to deliver the official address on behalf of the Honourable Premier of this beautiful province, Mr David Mabuza.
Issued by: South African Revenue Service
17 Apr 2012
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