In South Africa our tax collecting department (SARS) has made huge progress in the past 10 years or so. Collections have never been higher. Credit for this dramatic improvement is often given to the marketing campaign SARS has gone on to communicate it’s efficiency, zero tolerance approach, and most impactful of all it’s absolute power to reach into your life and turn it upside down. Nobody is above SARS. I’ve often wandered what would happen if the top dogs at SARS took over the Police Force in South Africa. I reckon they’d stamp out crime and corruption within 6 months.
But here’s the interesting part, and I have no real way of knowing, but when I talk to those I know who are in the know, they tell me SARS has never been in more chaos internally. Backlogs, systems that aren’t connected, etc, etc. I have a friend who has experienced some of this over the last 3 weeks. They just moved house and with the new laws that SARS has created, you can’t sell your house without it going through SARS. That way if you owe any money they apparently deduct it when the sale goes through and then pass on the balance to you. Luverlee. But in order for this to happen you must have a SARS number. So this year my friends wife filled a tax return (she hadn’t had to until this point) in order to get a Tax Number. She was told 21 working days till the number would be available. It’s been around 40 working days now and when you hear the story of being passed from pillar to post within SARS with no sign of a number of information on when it will be available, it makes for a comical read.
And there’s the paradox, or perhaps the power of marketing. On one front SARS appears to be a finely tuned and well oiled machine. But beneath the layer of hype and spin sits a giant that doesn’t know it’s… well you know what I’m getting at.