The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has welcomed the tabling of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), despite the statement’s downward revision of revenue collection by some R56.8 billion.
The MTBPS was tabled by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana in Parliament on Wednesday.
“SARS has continued with its core functions of collecting all that is due to the fiscus. During the first half of the current fiscal year, we have collected gross revenue totalling R1 016.3 billion, growing by 4.5% and recording a surplus of R1.0 billion against the Budget 2023 estimate.
“This performance is on the back of strong gross collections from VAT, Fuel Levy and PIT [Personal Income Tax], partially offset by lower gross collections from CIT [Corporate Income Tax], as company profits remain under pressure. Without our assistance, the fiscal framework would have been under greater pressure.
“This is a good news story and offers hope in a currently challenging environment. Through focused commitment, SARS has paid back to the economy through refunds for the first six months of the current fiscal year an amount totalling R212.2 billion, higher by R24.6 billion over the prior year and higher than the Budget 2023 estimate by R30.1 billion,” the revenue service said in a statement.
The 2023 main budget had projected collections would reach some R1.78 trillion but that has now been revised down to R1.73 trillion.
“Income and profits in the broader economy have been adversely affected from what was anticipated at the 2023 February Budget. Provisional corporate income tax collections, from especially the mining sector, have reduced at the end of the June 2023 and led to a larger than expected deficit against the 2023 Budget estimate.
“Nevertheless, higher-than-estimated profitability in the finance sector (amongst others) supported provisional corporate income tax and dividends tax collections. Main sector performance that showed growth includes – Finance 7.8% from employment and vesting of shares, Community 6.8% from annual salary increases (mainly Government) and Wholesale 6.2%, mainly from retail and vehicles,” SARS said.
The revenue service highlighted that net tax revenue performance is “impacted adversely” by local and global challenges.
“A slowdown in mining production is down 55% due to lower demand of coal. This is compounded by disruptions to and underinvestment in freight and logistics networks, which erode the competitiveness of the South African economy. The intermittent and inadequate electricity supply remains the most immediate and significant constraint to production, investment, and employment.
“Rising inflation rates constrained household spending by raising the cost of living. Global growth slowed further in recent months. Central banks are countering the effects of high inflation by implementing restrictive monetary policies for longer than anticipated which negatively impact on all developing countries. Several global risks remain, including the increase in geo-political tensions, resulting in the need for stronger domestic demand to support economic growth,” SARS said.
The revenue service added that Gross Compliance Revenue yielded some R118.4 billion.
Key focus areas in this regard include:
- R11.9 billion from revised assessments flowing from the verification of 1.12 million returns, up Y/Y up by R5 billion (70%).
- Almost R40 billion that was secured from resolving more than 440k debt collection cases, up Y/Y R4 billion (±12%).
- R2.3 billion secured from 121 illicit investigations and 181 state capture cases in progress, 27 cases handed to the NPA.
SARS highlighted that fraudulent refund claims remain a concern for the tax collector.
“At R172.1 billion, VAT refund payments contribute 81% to the overall outflows, growing against last year by R21.5 billion. 84% of all VAT Refunds are paid within 21 days, up from 77% last year. However, like all other revenue agencies, impermissible and fraudulent refunds remain a concern in this year, SARS prevented R45 billion from being paid out.
“Equally important is that we have prevented R45 billion from being paid out following verification activities that were enabled by Artificial Intelligence. Impermissible and fraudulent refunds remain a concern, and we must deal with this phenomenon,” the tax collector said.
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter encouraged South Africans to do the right thing and pay what is due to the tax authority.
“The historic win by the Springboks on Saturday communicates an important yet simple message – that every single point makes a massive difference between winning and losing. While the odds were stacked heavily against the Springboks, it took superhuman efforts individually and collectively to contribute to what at times look like an impossible victory.
“It is therefore incumbent upon all of us as South Africans to play by the rules like the Springboks and never give up until the final whistle blows,” Kieswetter said.