Author: Samuel Mungadze (BDlive)
The move by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to open small business support desks across the country has been hailed as likely to "foster a culture of compliance and good fiscal citizenry".
On Monday, SARS commissioner Tom Moyane launched SARS’ specialised Small Business Support Desks and visited a branch in Orlando East, the second SARS branch in Soweto. The revenue authority has been on a massive drive to increase tax compliance among small enterprise as the sector is expected to boost government’s coffers.
SARS has already rolled out 138 small business desks to 50 of the 52 branches nationwide. Small business queries such as business registrations‚ requests for tax clearance certificates and general business tax issues are dealt with at these desks.
Since the desks were set-up at the Orlando East branch several months ago‚ an average of 50 people with small business queries visit the branch each day‚ with over 2,000 general walk-in queries a week‚ SARS said in a statement.
South African Institute of Tax Professionals CE Stiaan Klue said: "The move by the commissioner must be applauded! This is decisive move by the commissioner, and is evident that he is in touch with reality."
He said the initiative would act as support mechanism to the National Development Plan (NDP), which places small business at the epicentre of South Africa’s future economic development and job creation.
The government has set its sights on small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) as a catalyst to create 90% of the jobs required to meet the NDP’s objective of 11-million jobs by 2030.
It has been envisaged that SMME development will help to curb South Africa’s persistently high unemployment rate, which is presently narrowly defined at 24.1%.
Mr Moyane said: "The Small Business Desks, which are being rolled out at SARS branches around the country, were established as part of government’s commitment to support SMEs (small- to medium-sized enterprises) and to make it easier for them to comply with their tax obligations". He said the launch of the service would help in minimising the "mortality rate of small businesses in South Africa".
Madelein van der Watt, development manager at Sage Pastel Payroll & HR said it was wonderful "to see something positive being done by SARS to enable small business growth in our country".
She said: "By providing these small business desks, SARS is providing education and a helping hand to those individuals who are not experienced in the intricacies of starting a business and keeping it tax compliant."
Both Mr Klue and Ms van der Watt said the new centres would assist small business owners by ensuring that their tax affairs were in order without the additional expense of hiring a tax expert.
The SARS offering for small business comes just a few weeks after a survey revealed that small firms spend an average of eight working days a month dealing with red tape, including with taxes.
The findings are in the November small business report titled, Examining the challenges facing small businesses in South Africa, by Johannesburg-based business environment specialists Small Business Project (SBP), which was released two months ago.
SBP, which also produces the country’s SME Growth Index, said rigid regulations had been cited on different platforms as hindering growth for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The shift in policy by the revenue authority comes as pressure mounts on authorities to support SMEs.
South Africa’s entrepreneurship activity lags behind countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Malaysia, Brazil and Russia.
The youth in South Africa also trail their sub-Saharan African peers. Alongside 10 other sub-Saharan countries, among them Nigeria, Angola and Ghana, only 39% of South Africa’s youth feel there are business opportunities available to them. The figure is much higher in other African states.
This article first appeared on bdlive.co.za.