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Monday, 3 October 2011

Tax man

Quote: "What's the difference between a taxidermist and the tax man. A taxidermist leaves the skin".  Mark Twain.

Had an appointment with the tax man today. Turned out to be a tax lady, very friendly, very efficient.

Usually you can do your tax returns online here in South Africa, known a E-filing. Well try as I might I could not open my e-file. After making enquiries it seems that, SARS, (South African Revenue Service), needed an update on my banking details, residential address, and identity document. This has to be done in person, no posting of certified copies, etc..

Well visiting the tax office is about as appealing as root canal without anaesthetic. The last time I went to the same office, it took about 5 hours to complete my tax business. Today was a totally different experience. 

I got to the office at 7am, after leaving home just before 6. Tax office is in Pietermaritzburg, 100km's from home. The queue was already halfway up the block. Just before opening time, 8am, (by now the queue stretched  right up the block and around the corner),two employees came out and started asking each person what his exact business was at SARS. Every one got a coloured card of laminated cardboard, blue for tax returns, like myself, orange for payments, green for something else. 

Then the doors were opened, we were taken to a reception area upstairs with chairs, every one seated according to his place in the queue irrespective of your particular need, or business there. Hardly sat down when we were ushered downstairs again, still in our order of arrival, where you showed your piece of coloured cardboard to a lady at a computer terminal to get a number. Obviously when the colour was typed in, the computer then worked out where you were going. My number was 51, printed on a label with a bar code. Again we had to sit down and told to watch a large flat TV screen for your number and service point. With the number 51, I knew  I was in for a long wait. All the time more people were streaming in.     

Well great was my surprise when hardly 10 minutes later my number flashed on the screen, service point 6. At service point 6, I was greeted by a very pretty young Zulu lady, named Londiwe ( with such a smile), that for a moment I thought I was young and handsome again. 

I handed her my crumpled mess of papers, proof of income, proof of tax paid, (PAYE), expenses, etc. She took them, sorted it all out and entered the details on the computer. Then told me that if I brought in certain other documents, which I hadn't thought about, I was entitled to additional rebates. My tax return is now pending and I will take the necessary documentation tomorrow. My old number, 51, was reallocated to me, to speed up the process even more when I get there. Fifteen minutes later, I staggered out quite stunned at the efficiency of it all, hardly 40 minutes from beginning to end. 

Almost makes you look forward to paying tax.


Jo said...

Hi Phil, that's an encouraging story. I hope our tax return is dealt with so leniently and efficiently.We used to submit to Pmbg no prob. Now we submit to Bloem, there are queries! Hope you're keeping well. Grant asked today when last I'd "heard" from you. And I said only on blogger. He sends his regards. Love and blessings. Jo

Gorges Smythe said...

I think our IRS needs to take lessons from your tax department!

Joyful said...

Well written story Phil of a usually distasteful task. I especially like your line "At service point 6, I was greeted by a very pretty young Zulu lady, named Londiwe ( with such a smile), that for a moment I thought I was young and handsome again." I can imagine that if you thought like that, a lot of other "young" men feel that way too. Have a wonderful day and thanks for letting me know how you do taxes in South Africa.

Shoreman said...

When you started talking about the lines, numbers, and colored cards, I thought you were talking about the Department of Motor Vehicles here in California. That was until you got to the 10 minute wait time. A wait at DMV is hours. Had me scared for a minute.


Desiree said...

I'm astounded! Efficiency somewhere! Wish Telkom could take a leaf out of SARS workbook!