The South African Revenue Service (SARS) expects to grow its workforce by close to 800 people over the next three years, and is looking to boost its skills capacity in high-tech fields.
SARS says its workforce has experienced morale issues over the last few years, largely driven by the previous administration that allegedly sought to break down organisational integrity within the revenue service.
SARS’ 2020/2021 annual report shows that it has a total headcount of 12,479 staff.
The group is working to not only rebuild trust with taxpayers, but says it will also place strategic focus on enhancing engagement with employees, and appointing ethical and competent managers to ensure that teams can meet current and future needs.
To this end, the tax body also anticipates growing its workforce, from the 12,350 employees on book at the end of December 2021, to around 13,150 employees by the 2024/25 financial year.
The addition of around 800 new staff will coincide with other workforce strategies such as upskilling and retraining, it said. This is so that the revenue service can focus on new and emerging technologies, which it says will completely transform the way its mandate is carried out.
These technologies include, among others:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Machine Learning
- Cloud Computing
These technologies will facilitate taxpayer and trader interactions, which will be different and will reduce the compliance burden, SARS said.
“We also anticipate a big impact on our employees as current roles will most certainly evolve from largely administrative functions to more analytical work, and this has implications for our staffing model and resource mix,” it said.
It said it will build the required new skills – including upskilling of current staff – capability, and capacity to complement adapt to these new technological developments, and invest in new systems and digital processes to create a seamless taxpayer and trader experience.
It will also “aggressively encourage taxpayers and traders to use online platforms” when engaging with SARS.
“Our human capability must evolve to complement the increasing levels of automated processing and artificial intelligence-enabled by data, supercomputers, and real-time connectivity,” it said.
SARS has been pushing to use computer algorithms, machine learning, and other advanced technologies to ensure taxpayer compliance.
In its annual report published in October 2021, the revenue collector said it has ‘significantly expanded the scope of detection’, beyond data obtained through declarations, as well as the traditional third party data received which enabled the pre-filling of PIT returns, as well as auto assessments.
It has implemented several machine learning models that leverage multiple asset and income stream data sources to detect non-declaration and under-declaration – and it has indicated that it will increasingly make use of AI in the coming years to clamp down on non-compliance.
The group said that its ‘Vision 2024’ is to build a ‘smart modern tax authority’, looking for specialised skills in the following fields:
- IT specialists, including developers, database administrators, security and software engineers, SAP specialists and integration designers;
- Data management specialists, including data analysts and data scientists;
- Audit and risk specialists;
- Investigation specialists, especially criminal investigators and forensic auditors;
- Research analysts;
- Social scientists;
- Project leaders;
- Legal specialists; and
- Regulatory and risk specialists.