The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has paid out over R120 billion in refunds across all tax types.
The refunds were paid out from the beginning of April of the tax season to date, said the revenue service on Monday.
An amount of R100.6 billion in Value-Added Tax (VAT) refunds has been paid this year. This is a 5% increase compared to R95.6 billion paid last year at the same time.
For Personal Income Tax this year to date, refund payments have increased by 16% with R14. 9 billion already paid compared to R12. 8 billion paid last year at the same time.
For the year to date (1 April 2017 -10 October 2017), R6.9 billion in Corporate Income Tax (CIT) refunds has been paid, compared to R5.7 billion last year this time, marking a 21% increase.
SARS further announced that for the current financial year to date, its risk mitigation measures have saved the fiscus R20 billion in fraudulent claims across all tax types.
“It must be noted that there has been an increase in refund pay-outs across all tax types in the last three years,” said SARS.
VAT refund payments increased from R162.1 billion in 2014/15 to R167.1 billion in 2015/16, and R181.5 billion in 2016/17.
SARS said while it is committed to ensuring taxpayers get their refunds, it also has a mandate to avoid revenue loss to the country’s fiscus.
This it said, it does through a series of risk mitigation measures to detect fraudulent claims and non-compliance.
“During the 2016/2017 financial year, SARS’s risk detection measures prevented R35 billion of unwarranted refunds from being paid. For the current financial year to date (1 April 2017 to date), SARS has already saved the fiscus R20 billion in fraudulent claims across tax types.”
The revenue service acknowledged taxpayers frustration when they expect a refund and it is delayed.
“The organisation aims to implement effective preventative measures to detect fraud and non-compliance. SARS wishes to apologise for any inconvenience caused while having agile systems that make it easier to interact with SARS and prevent revenue leakages due to fraud and non-compliance.”
SARS reiterated that the majority of tax refunds are processed within 72 hours without an audit.
In the last three years, VAT refund fraud cases investigated by SARS’ criminal investigations team amounted to over R2 billion and were handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
These cases related to the establishment of fictitious entities and the submission of fictitious VAT invoicing schemes.
Personal Income Tax refund fraud cases investigated by SARS and handed to the NPA amounted to R148 million, for the same period. SARS currently performs at a conviction rate of 95% for all cases presented and finalised in court.
“SARS strives to balance taxpayer service and risk detection as both are essential for an efficient tax administration. It is of utmost necessity to SARS to pay legitimate refunds as the flow back into the economy sustains economic momentum and assists companies to meet their cash flow requirements.”
The revenue service further assured taxpayers that processes are in place to ensure the integrity of the revenue outcome.
The National Treasury, South African Reserve Bank and SARS perform joint oversight and analysis of revenue on a monthly basis and base budget estimates on the performance of taxes across tax types.