Fri, 03 Jul 2020

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has officially opened tax filing season and is encouraging the South African public and businesses to file their tax returns - not an easy feat as South Africans are seemingly trusting the public institution less and less.

June insights from the South African Citizens Survey (SACS), conducted by Citizen Surveys, have revealed that trust in SARS, which held steady at 61% in April and May, declined by 3% to 58% in June.

Reza Omar, strategic research director at Citizen Surveys, says: "Trust in SARS reached an all-time low in 2018, corresponding with the beginning of the Nugent commission of inquiry and the revelations about the cost of state capture.

"Trust improved over the election period; however, in June, trust in SARS was once again on the decline.

"South Africans who have been battered by a contracting economy and have been stretching their budgets are once again going to be asked to dig deeper. Given that there is likely to be a shortfall in tax collection, and a greater need for tax compliance, restoring high levels of trust in SARS is critical. Implementing the recommendations of the Nugent Commission of Inquiry and [the appointment of] a new Commissioner to head the institution may go a long way to help rebuild trust in SARS," says Omar.

Trust in Public Protector dropped

Another public institution losing the trust of the South African public is the office of the Public Protector, which dropped from 58% in April to 56% in May and then dropped even further to 53% in June.

"This drop of 5% over a three-month period is not surprising, considering the amount of political commentary regarding the national elections and State of the Nation Address that occurred between the months of April and June.

"It is, however, concerning that only just over half of [the survey's respondents] trust the Public Protector, whose mandate is to strengthen constitutional democracy (by investigating, rectifying, and redressing any improper or prejudicial conduct in state affairs) - particularly since President Cyril Ramaphosa promised a crackdown on corruption during the elections," says Omar.

A crisis of political legitimacy?

Fewer than half of voters went to the polls in this year's national and provincial elections, with many people giving various reasons as to why they did not vote. While much of this was anecdotal, in June, Citizen Surveys tested these reasons among a nationally representative sample of South Africans. An analysis of the data revealed:

- 69% agree that political parties could not be trusted to keep their election promises;

- 74% agree that most politicians are corrupt and therefore cannot be trusted;

- 78% agree that political parties just wanted their vote and that, afterwards, they will do whatever they want; and

- 82% agree that political parties keep fighting each other and are not solving the problems facing South Africa.

"It is clear that South Africans are frustrated with political parties not keeping their election promises, corrupt politicians, subsequent to voting being ignored by the political establishment and the constant bickering between political parties and factionalism within the parties when there are so many priority problems that need to be urgently addressed. In effect, South Africans want progress in solving South Africa's most important problems; unemployment, crime, poverty and destitution, the housing crisis and corruption," says Omar.

SACS data is collated from face-to-face interviews with a nationally-representative sample of 1 300 respondents per month.

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