Possible tax interventions to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the South African context
SAICA made a submission to SARS on 17 March 2020, requesting the Commissioner of SARS to consider various aspects regarding tax compliance due to COVID-19. The Tax Administration Act, 2011 provides for the potential remission of penalties and interest and condonation of late objections and appeals where non-compliance with timelines is as a result of ‘exceptional circumstances’. SAICA thus requested the Commissioner to make a public statement to allay taxpayer concerns that this is an “exceptional circumstance” and “natural” disaster (as announced by the President) for the purposes of section 187(7) and section 218 of the TAA and what SARS will be expecting of taxpayers to prove causality. To date, we have received no feedback in this regard.
No extensions or other concessions provided by SARS, other than those announced by the President SARS issued this letter to tax practitioners on 25 March 2020.
SAICA again engaged with SARS regarding some aspects of this letter as it appears that despite services provided by accountants and/or tax practitioners not being included in the regulations issued regarding essential services during the lockdown, the expectation is that those responsible for fulfilling tax compliance obligations either for their clients, employers or themselves are still required to meet these obligations within the deadlines prescribed in the relevant legislation. Various processes have been put in place by SARS for electronic platforms to be accessible in this regard.
Very importantly, given that there are no extensions, taxpayers (including representatives thereof) and tax practitioners must ensure that they have all the documents they need to be compliant before lockdown. An sms communication was sent to all members regarding the above. SARS did advise that where one needs to upload a manual document and does not have access to a printer/scanner, it would be suitable to take a picture of the document/s and upload the image as an attachment.