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‘Sars collected R1trn tax despite distractions’

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The SA Revenue Service (Sars) managed to collect R1trn in tax payments for the first time in South Africa’s history, despite the recent political distractions, Commissioner Tom Moyane said on Friday.

During a joint media conference with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas, Moyane criticised the “negative media reportage” that has focused on Sars recently. Moyane criticised those who called him incompetent and incapable, and questioned his personal integrity.

This is the first time Gordhan and Moyane have held a joint press conference since Gordhan’s reappointment  in December. They are at the centre of a conflict over the alleged rogue unit at Sars.

“We are only here to focus on the results,” he said. “We must acknowledge the 14 500 staff at Sars who remained focused and tenacious to serve our country despite these distractions.

“Our single objective is reaching the revenue target,” he said. “Despite the hurdles, we delivered.

“When some questioned the leadership of this organisation, we returned the numbers,” he said. “We will turn up the heat and make it more difficult for dishonest people to cheat Sars.”

South Africa collected R12bn less in tax revenue for 2015/16 compared to what was projected in the 2015 budget, Gordhan announced on Friday.

“However, tax revenues have been marginally more resilient than government had anticipated,” he said in Pretoria. “Gross tax revenue for the fiscal year came in at R1.0699trn or R0.2bn more than the February estimate.”

Gordhan put his differences with Moyane aside in applauding the work of his team. “This is a remarkable achievement that we attribute to the hard work and dedication of 14 500 staff compliment of Sars.”

Moyane and his Sars team have visited offices around the country, he said. “We engaged employees and taxpayers to listen and take suggestions to ensure the revenue collection process is seamless.

“We are evolving as an organisation to ensure we collect all revenue due to the state,” Moyane said. “A more hands-on approach is required regarding revenue collection.

Gordhan said indications are that the revised deficit, as published in the 2016 Budget Review, is broadly achievable.

“It is clear that the global economy is not going to be helpful over the next few years,” Moyane said. “We need to redouble our efforts to increase policy certainty, catalyse entrepreneurship, innovation and the joint experience of the private sector and the public sector so we can grow this economy.

“Notwithstanding today’s revenue outcome, the growth expectation of 0.9% for 2016 is not nearly enough to generate the kind of revenue that enables us to fund all of government’s programmes. Our focus on fiscal commitment will remain.

“We cannot spend money we do not have. We cannot borrow beyond our ability to repay. We will taper off the debt to GDP ratio. Until we can ignite growth and generate more revenue, we have to be tough on ourselves.

“We need to inculcate a culture of efficiency in our approach to spending,” he said, adding that there is legitimate scepticism that government is serious about this.

He warned local government that he will punish them by withholding funds to ensure they comply.

“We need to stop placing unnecessary adverts in newspapers and buying expensive cars in municipalities,” he said. “We will manage these misdemeanours by withholding certain transfers if there is an abuse of funds.”

Finally, Gordhan said he would like to thank the “most important people that have made this possible”.

“That is the compliant taxpayers of this country, who have contributed their fair share to ensure that government has the resources it needs to make a difference in the lives of South Africans.”

[Source: Fin24]

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