Government seeks to reduce red tape and up online security.
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A single registration process similar to the "know your client" process that South African banks went through with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) is being rolled out by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
The programme, which began in May, forms part of the government’s efforts to reduce red tape and tighten up on cybercrime and identity theft.
It is being implemented by SARS in co-operation with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and the Department of Home Affairs.
Ongoing need to enhance cyber security
"Cyber security and the enhancement thereof is a never-ending exercise, and must be focused on and tightened up. But we are fully aware that we cannot start with full compliance from the start as the system cannot adapt fast enough. That is why the tightening up will be done in a measured way," said SARS chief operating officer Barry Hore.
Some early glitches
Some problems were experienced with the initial roll-out when registered tax practitioners were not able to make certain amendments to sensitive client information at branch offices.
The system has been designed so that only registered practitioners can make changes, but according to Hore there "were not too many of them" and that has caused problems.
The Tax Administration Act introduced provisions stating that tax practitioners had to be registered with SARS and with one of the accredited regulatory bodies verifying that they were registered with them and in good standing.
The process of getting all these names registered did not go as smoothly as expected and a "redoubling of efforts" to verify registered practitioners had been initiated.
Hore said manual processes to validate tax practitioners had been introduced in branch offices. "We did not anticipate the level of reaction to the new system and we dealt with it," he said.
Converging multiple interactions into one
SARS met representatives of the accredited bodies and introduced changes to allow for the validation of tax practitioners.
"It is the biggest change we have ever made – it is not simply about how you register an entity, but it covers every interaction with SARS that has to be checked.
"There are over 300 interfaces within SARS that had to be changed. In the first stage, SARS introduced software that will allow for the single registration process, and in the second stage SARS will start merging multi-records into single records."
This will mean that if a taxpayer has 16 different interactions with SARS it will be aligned into one interaction. For example, one company can have 15 different VAT numbers in one group and that had to form part of one picture.
SARS head of service escalations and support Mark Kingon said it was like the interface people have with banks. They will be able to see their different "accounts" in one picture.