Last-ditch bid to beat tax filing deadline

IN A rush to beat the individual tax filing deadline today thousands of people queued from as early as 4am in Johannesburg yesterday to avoid tough new penalties.

South African Revenue Service (Sars) branches nationwide have seen more than 3,2million taxpayers filing their returns, as of yesterday, since the tax season opened on July 1. At least 100000 of them filed online.

"The branches are very busy. There are at least 30000 people an hour logged on to our website. Our call centre received 60000 calls yesterday alone," said Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackey.

By Monday, 700000 more returns had been received compared with last year.

Yesterday the Carlton Centre branch in Johannesburg was overcrowded with taxpayers.

"We opened at 6.30am but people were already queuing outside. We expect more people on the last day. It is always like this," said branch manager Paulinah Booysens.

Her staff had their hands full helping taxpayers to fill in forms and directing them to the relevant desks.

A temporary office has been opened on Beyers Naudé Square, between President and Market streets, to help relieve the Carlton Centre branch.

A nearby restaurant delivered an order of 103 hamburgers for the staff who had no time to leave their work stations for lunch.

Asked why he waited until deadline, taxpayer Ratshepo Mazibuko said he would probably have received bad service had he come two weeks ago.

"As you can see they are fast. They have also hired extra staff to help. I do not have a problem queuing today," he said.

Sars will next week introduce strict new penalties against non-compliant taxpayers.

Sars branches will be open from 7am to 6pm today.