Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/TREVOR SAMSON
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/TREVOR SAMSON

The government is faced with the difficult task of restoring the credibility of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene says.

Speaking at an event to mark the opening of tax season, at the SARS campus in Alberton on Monday, Nene said: "Government is faced with three objectives currently: to stabilise SARS, restore the credibility of the institution and meet the revenue targets."

The revenue target is set at R1.345-trillion, 10.5% higher than the revised target of R1.217-trillion set last year. SARS had a revenue shortfall of R48.2bn in 2017 and undershot the revenue target by R700m.

"There are two processes under way to ensure this," Nene said.

"There is the commission of enquiry into tax administration and governance of SARS, and the disciplinary hearing into the commissioner, which has been driven by the president," said Nene.

SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, who has been shrouded in controversy, was suspended earlier this year by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said he had lost faith in his ability to lead the tax institution.

The Nugent commission of inquiry is currently conducting hearings about what went wrong on Moyane’s watch.

"We need to continue to work with SARS to ensure the institution stays its course and delivers its mandate," Nene said on Monday.

"It has the clearest mandate compared with those given to other institutions." The government could not meet its objectives without SARS, he said.

SARS acting commissioner Mark Kingon said SARS had received close to 140,000 returns via efiling so far, and in the past 24 hours had received 54,000 returns.

Tax season concludes on October 31.

Kingon said SARS was moving towards becoming completely digital.

"We’ve spent the past few months assessing what we can do better. When we engage tax payers, we will promote efiling and the digital platforms for filing tax returns," said Kingon.

SARS is phasing out drop boxes and will soon phase out returns via manual processes, which made up fewer than 5,000 returns last year.

SARS also launched a new service charter for SA. This is a set of objectives that the tax administration will deliver, with timelines.

"The last one issued was in 2009 and we haven’t adapted it, given that we have completely changed from a manual process to automatic process," said Kingon.