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South African Revenue Collections Exceed Targets

by Robert Lee,, London

03 April 2008

The robustness of the South African economy and the efficacy of its fiscal institutions have once again been confirmed by the revenue collection efforts of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in the fiscal year 2007/08, according to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

In a media statement issued by Manuel on April 1st, it was announced that SARS collected preliminary tax revenues of R571.8bn (USD72.8bn) during the fiscal year 2007/8 - slightly above Manuel's increased revenue target of R571.06bn, set by the Minster in February, and R15.2bn above the February 2007 estimate of R556.6bn.

According to the statement, taking into account additional departmental revenue of R1.4bn and deducting transfers to fellow members of the South African Customs Union (SACU), the preliminary main budget revenue estimate is R560.1bn.

The preliminary estimate of national expenditure is R541.6bn, bringing the main budget surplus to R18.5bn or 0.9% of GDP, which is 0.1% higher than the February 2008 estimate.

"Once again, the resilience of the South African economy and the ability of SARS to mobilize efforts way beyond the call of duty have been demonstrated more than adequately," Manuel's statement declared, adding that: "The results confirm the continuing expansion of our economy, and the growing strength of the partnership between SARS and taxpayers."

Manuel attributed the above-target revenue performance to 5% growth in South Africa's GDP, increased fixed investment spending which boosted the import of capital goods, employment and wage growth, higher inflation and interest rates, and a slowdown in household consumption.

"Given the economic circumstances in 2007 the target of R571.06bn was a formidable one," Manuel stated, going on to note that SARS had to devise "extraordinary measures to identify the monies rightfully owing to the fiscus".

During March 2008, around 300,000 telephone calls were made by SARS agents to taxpayers, resulting in a commitment to pay an additional R5 billion in revenue. Most taxpayers, Manuel claims, "appreciated the courtesy and reminder from SARS". However, he added that a small minority "continued to seek ways to avoid meeting their obligations".

The Finance Minister also revealed that a larger number of companies of all sizes were contacted to ensure that they paid their fair share of tax.

In addition, an extra R4.36bn was collected during March through special initiatives to recover long outstanding debt, while a system was introduced to avoid payment delays, by prescreening defective (RD) cheques to ensure that these are banked in time.

"I am very appreciative of the tremendous cooperation by many businesses – larger corporations and smaller enterprises - and individuals. This bodes extremely well for the creation of the right kind of compliance culture for a young democracy like ours. This is indispensable to sustaining our successes and building our nation," Manuel stated.

The R169.1bn in revenue from Personal Income Tax (PIT) exceeded the printed estimate of R156bn by R13bn and was marginally less than the revised target of R169.3bn.

The growth in PIT collected was largely due to the growth in the tax register, complemented by growth in remuneration by 11.7%, and employment growth of 2.4% at end September 2007.

The Revised VAT Target of R147bn was exceeded by R2.6bn

Despite the moderation in the growth rate of final consumption expenditure, VAT has benefited from inflation in the short term. Preliminary figures indicate that there has been a shift in the composition of the VAT receipts.

In the year under review, import VAT, including tax on equipment and producer goods, contributed R1.1bn more to total VAT collection, whereas domestic VAT contributed R2.7bn less than estimated.

The revised corporate income tax target of R142.6bn was exceeded by R448mn.

This target increased from the printed estimate of R139.1bn to R142.6 bn in the 2008 budget. Trends in company income tax revenue over the past five years have been volatile, and therefore present a particular challenge for revenue forecasting.

Higher CIT collections were primarily due to annual growth in total gross operating surplus of 18.1%.

All sectors posted positive tax growth. Manufacturing contributed the most to the year-on-year growth of 20% in CIT followed by Mining, Financial Services, Insurance and Banks.

In terms of sectoral contribution to CIT, Manufacturing accounted for 22%, Mining 12%, Financial Services 11%, Wholesale and Retail 10%, Banks 8% and Insurance 7%.

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