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Tax – EMP 201 & EMP 501

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Has anyone else been struggling with the SARS e-filing?  I know I have.  It has been an absolute nightmare to try and navigate!

Firstly, there was the whole change around the monthly EMP 201 submission.  Suddenly the form format changed and although I managed to submit the form it didn’t automatically debit my bank account.

Phoning SARS offices was also a nightmare! Firstly to get through to a living, breathing human being in itself was a huge challenge. After listening to the whole electronic voice guide of ‘if you want to …. Press this ….’ Etc, I ended up being the 213th person in the queue.  Needless to say I ended the call!  What’s with that anyway?  Surely when you change something of this magnitude you really do need to have the support structure in place to deal with the fall out.  Obviously SARS did not think about this at all.

Three weeks and many calls later I eventually got through to a living, breathing person . . . . .  who could not help me!  It was a simple question right?  I mean all I asked was “how do I get the payment from my bank account into the SARS bank account”? She could not assist me and insisted that I go to the SARS offices for assistance.  So off I went, waited in the queue for parking, waited in the queue at reception, only to be told . . .  wait for it . . . .  they couldn’t help me!  Yip, you got it, they couldn’t help me, but to their credit they did give me an e-mail address, written on a scrap of paper, of someone by the name of Busi – who would be able to assist me.

Irritated beyond belief, I went back home and sent off an e-mail to one Busi.  Two days later I got a response with an easy to understand step-by-step instructions on ‘how to’ do everything that needed to be done with the EMP 201 and what’s more, it’s incredibly easy.  So why on earth did they not put some sort of tutorial on the SARS site to assist people through the whole exercise?  Who knows, but I am sure it would have assisted many without them having to go through the whole irritation that I went through.

My faith in SARS efficiency restored – I faced my next SARS challenge – the EMP 501 (or for us older folk the IRP5). Seeing that I had had so much assistance from Busi, I contacted her again to ask for the ‘step-by-step’ method on how to complete and submit the EMP 501.  I was not so lucky this time around.  Mails went backwards and forwards with me getting no closer to the solution and the ‘cut off date’ loomed even closer and even worse, I could not now get into the SARS site to download the new ‘easy file’ application.  Busi eventually advised that I should go to SARS on a Tuesday or Thursday for training – no mention of how long it would take, the time of the training, nothing – just go to SARS!

Great, they have training – being a small business owner and only having one employee (being me) means that I am often booked up weeks in advance – but hey, why should SARS care about that?  I should just drop everything and get my butt off to do some training!  Off I duly went and there I was, one of several people who were then taken step-by-step through the whole EMP201 requirements by two gentlemen who actually even offered to come to our businesses to assist if we should need any help – only with the forms EMP201 though.  They could not assist with anything to do with the EMP501 – we had to wait for Busi to arrive.

Eventually Busi arrived and went through the whole process and even I, technophobe that I am, kind of sort of get it! Part of the problem is that although I am registered on e-filing, I do not use an accounting package and that means that although it gets submitted electronically, it is still done manually (on the system as opposed to being done electronically through the accounting package) – confusing – pretty much.  When I queried the fact that the SARS site was not accessible at this time I was told “please give me your flash-drive and I will load the program onto that for you”, by said Busi.  Now who goes to a training session on how to fill in a form, armed with their flash-drive – not me?  Apparently they did have CD’s but the demand had been so great that they had run out! Go figure – you change a system that affects every single business in the country and you don’t expect a huge demand on the ‘how to’ do it? My faith in the efficiency of SARS plummeted again!

A long story short, it took another month for me to be able to get hold of Busi (no-one else could assist according to her office) to get the program put onto my flash drive – all of this for a monthly payment to SARS of R80.00.  It must have cost me around R20 000 in time, fuel costs, not to mention irritation to get to this point.

Now we come to the fun part – not for me, because I actually do have a tax number, but for all the other business owners out there who employ staff.  Irrespective of whether your employee earns enough to submit a tax return or not, you – as the employer are responsible for ensuring that the staff member has a tax number and an ID number.  If they don’t have a tax and ID number, you need to get them registered, because if you do not put their tax and ID number on the form, it will not allow you to submit it and if you don’t submit it you will be fined!

One of the ladies at the training who does payroll administration tried to explain how difficult it is for her to get information like this from some of her clients, who often just employ ‘casuals’ for a day.  She visits her client once a month to get their information, so she does not control what documentation is presented.  The response from SARS “well I suggest you get new clients!”  What does that tell me – well, loud and clear, the message is that SARS doesn’t give a continental about SMME’s and even more clear is the fact that SARS has no clue about the challenges that small business owners face.  Getting the money at any cost, irrespective of whether they close you down with what I consider as unreasonable requirements, they don’t give a damn – Yip – that’s the message I got from SARS!