Stay away from Sars branches, the taxman warns. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Stay away from Sars branches, the taxman warns. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Do you need a tax reference number or just want to file your tax return? Either way, don’t go to a Sars tax branch, the revenue service said on Tuesday as it announced an aggressive social-distancing plan to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

This does not relieve you of your duty as a taxpayer; the deadline for employers to file your employment details is March 31, Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said in a statement.

He said Sars has to balance its important work of collecting revenue and facilitating services to taxpayers, travelers and traders with taking reasonable measures to protect Sars officials and the country’s citizens amid the global coronavirus pandemic. As of Tuesday, the country had just more than 60 confirmed infections.

The Sars strict social-distancing guidelines include the increased use of digital channels — eFiling, its mobiApp (download through your app store Google Play or Apple Store) and the Sars website; the Sars contact centre (0800 00 7277) and e-mail for all engagements. If you are unable to make a call to the contact centre, you can use these dedicated e-mail channels: account balances, Accounts@sars.gov.za; third-party appointment queries,  TPA@sars.gov.za; journals, Journals@sars.gov.za; statement of accounts, SOA@sars.gov.za; and AA88’s, AA88@sars.gov.za.

Kieswetter said Sars will, until further notice, no longer issue tax reference numbers for employment purposes. Instead it is working on a digital solution for this purpose that it aims to have up and running in the next few weeks. In the meantime, ask your employer to register you online, Sars said.

“There is no requirement to register with Sars ahead of looking for a job, and a prospective employer may register you as well.”

If Sars requested supporting documents from you, you can upload them via eFiling or the Sars mobiApp or drop them off at a branch drop-box.

If you still need to visit a Sars branch, strict adherence to social-distancing and general hygiene practices will be applied, including a 100-person limit in a branch at any time. Sars will provide a drop-box in all its branch offices.

To help you plan a necessary branch visit, Sars requests that you watch branch visitor volumes and queue times on its website and mobiApp.

In addition to hand sanitisers at all branches, Sars staff have been provided with protective gear such as gloves and, when required, additional protective equipment such as masks and suits, Kieswetter said.

He said that if you need to visit or pass through a port of entry, Sars customs officials will follow similar hygiene practices. In addition, they will avoid, as far as possible, all physical contact with travelers and use non-intrusive detecting devices such as baggage scanners.

Said Kieswetter, “Sars remains determined to safeguard the public’s confidence in our tax administration system during these unprecedented times. Collectively, we will ensure that the tax administration system of the Republic remains operational.” 

Meanwhile, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) also announced precautionary measures to protect its staff, the sector and support government effort in containing the pandemic.  

The FSCA says it will enable remote working and use technology to facilitate all meetings but will suspend all face-to-face engagements with external stakeholders, including walk-in clients at its Pretoria offices, until further notice.

The authority  also postponed all planned FSCA events and initiatives such as roadshows, workshops and seminars; cancelled all  sites inspections to affected financial institutions; and will deal with Licensing and Business Centre activities via e-mail (e-mail info@fsca.co.za ) or telephone (0800 20 37 22).