In June 2006, The South African Revenue Service (SARS) announced that its 1000th taxpayer had just submitted their tax returns via its online portal.
Still, in its nascent phase, the eFiling system had opened up to much fanfare and delight from taxpayers, making use of it to streamline often tedious tasks such as tax returns.
Fast forward some 17 years into the present day, and many government agencies beyond SARS have since adopted digitization as a part of their processes.
This process was only fast-tracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which imposed heavy restrictions on movement to and from government offices such as SARS.
This spurred the widespread adoption of its online systems as taxpayers sought alternatives to filing tax returns.
Alternatives that did not require in-person visits to SARS local offices that would violate standing COVID policies of the time.
Today, an ever-growing portion of activity within SARS is handled via its eFiling system.
With additional technologies such as auto-assessments being introduced by SARS to further streamline its processes.
This article seeks to provide taxpayers with all the information they will need to effectively navigate SARS’s eFiling system.
What time does SARS eFiling open and close?
Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar SARS offices which are limited to traditional working hours that are subject to budgetary constraints and a human labor force.
SARS eFiling operates on a 24-hour basis all throughout the year by the virtue of it being online.
Conventional SARS offices find themselves operational on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 am in morning until 16:00 pm in the evening, with almost all calendar holidays, being counted as an off day.
SARS’s eFiling portal, however, suffers from no such time constraints, which is why the national government has put an emphasis on taxpayers making their submissions and other tax-related activities through the portal.
It is important, however, to remember that despite the eFiling system having no noticeable time constraints or closing hours.
It does, however, have window periods in which taxpayer-related activities, such as tax returns, must be completed for these activities to be processed successfully.
As an example, income tax returns stopped taking submissions towards the end of October this year on the 26th of that month.
Thus it is important that you conduct all your online tax-related activities before the deadlines set by SARS for that particular tax-related duty.
Are SARS offices open for walk-in?
As of the date of writing SARS offices and regional branches are open to the public on weekdays between the hours of 8:00 and 16:00 during the day.
Despite this, the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the nationally sanctioned move towards digitization, have shifted the revenue services priorities.
According to SARS’s official website, no physical visits to branches are permitted without having first made an appointment.
This, according to SARS is to determine the nature of your visit to the revenue service beforehand and to make staff-based provisions accordingly.
Although in reality, it is part of a government strategy designed to nudge taxpayers into using the eFiling system over in-office visits.
This as budgetary constraints, see many branches permanently close, such as those in Uitenhage, the Pavillion Centre in Pretoria, and the Dube branch in Soweto.
In such cases, branches were either moved to smaller, cheaper locales with fewer staff-hence the appointments, which serve to limit the amount of traffic at physical branches to align with the number of available staff.
Or branches were closed down entirely, with its functionality being replaced by the eFiling system and call centres.
Taxpayers can continue to access SARS via channels such as its online platforms such as eFiling (www.sarsefiling.co.za), the Mobile App, which can be downloaded from the Google play store, and email (email@example.com ).
Taxpayers can also contact SARS at 0800 00 7277, via SMS at 47277 with the word booking as well as their identity document.
Or they can visit the official website at www.sars.gov.za.
Is SARS working on Saturday?
SARS branches nationwide typically close on weekends and public holidays, but this is not without exception.
There have been times in the recorded history of the revenue service where branches open on weekends.
Usually, it extends its operating hours in order to extend the deadline for the impending tax season.
In such events, SARS extends its operating hours to Saturday between the hours of 8 am to 1 pm.
These extensions to office hours often occur from the end of September until the end of the following month in November.
Within these extended hours, SARS prioritizes queries and taxpayer activities related to income tax returns.
It is also encouraged that taxpayers bring along the necessary supporting documents such as IRP5/IT3 (a) and IT (b) certificates, as well as one’s banking details, in a written paper.
When can you do SARS tax returns?
The annual filing season for SARS, when you are required by the law to submit your tax returns, typically runs from July until November in a given year.
For the 2023 tax year, the deadline for annual tax returns was set to the 31st of October.
And could be accomplished both online through the eFiling system, in-person at local SARS branches, or through auto-assessments which automatically processed 3 million tax returns this year.
How many days does SARS take to pay?
This year saw the widespread adoption of auto-assessments from SARS in which 3 million tax returns were automatically processed from sources such as employer data, medical schemes, and retirement annuity funds.
Should the auto assessment be successful, pleasing, and free of errors to the assessed taxpayer?
You can check if you are eligible for a refund from SARS, provided the banking details lodged on the system are up to date.
Should a refund be due to you, in most cases, the online eFiling and MobiApp systems will automatically take care of it for you. You can expect your refund within 72 hours of your assessment being processed.
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