The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has recently found itself in the midst of a controversy surrounding text messages sent to taxpayers, with many deeming the messages as overly threatening and unprofessional. SARS has since issued a formal apology for the alarming content of these SMS messages.
On Tuesday evening, numerous South African taxpayers received SMS messages from SARS, which raised concerns due to the intimidating language used. The messages warned of potential criminal actions against taxpayers who failed to submit their income tax returns within a specified time frame. Understandably, this approach led to an outpouring of discontent on social media platforms, as taxpayers felt that they were being coerced into compliance.
The text message urged taxpayers to file their returns within ten days to avoid administrative penalties and the possibility of receiving a summons. While the intention behind these messages was to serve as a reminder to fulfill legal obligations, the execution left much to be desired, according to the taxpayers.
SARS swiftly responded to the backlash by clarifying its position. The revenue service stressed that it does not initiate legal actions against taxpayers without first engaging with them. In a statement, SARS acknowledged the shortcomings in the SMS content and apologized for any frustration or inconvenience it may have caused. To address the situation, SARS decided to put its SMS service on hold.
While it is SARS’ duty to remind taxpayers of their legal obligation to file their tax returns on time, the organization emphasized that its primary objective is to ensure compliance, not to intimidate or threaten taxpayers. Honest taxpayers should not feel threatened by SARS. Unfortunately, the choice of words in the SMS had the unintended effect of raising concerns among the recipients.
SARS also reminded taxpayers that it remains their legal obligation to ensure that their tax affairs are in order. Failure to comply with these obligations may lead to consequences in the future. It is vital for taxpayers to be aware of their responsibilities and to take action to regularize their tax affairs as needed.
SARS has taken swift action to address the concerns raised by taxpayers regarding the alarming SMS messages. The organization has acknowledged its lapse in professionalism, issued an apology, and temporarily halted its SMS service. It is essential for taxpayers to remain aware of their legal obligations and act accordingly to avoid any potential issues with tax compliance in the future. SARS has emphasized that its primary goal is to assist and ensure compliance, not to instigate legal action without prior engagement with taxpayers.