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Commissioner Kieswetter envisions a ‘re-imagined SARS of the future’

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The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has embarked on a journey to “reimagine a future revenue authority where increasingly its work will be informed by data-driven insights, self-learning computers, artificial intelligence and interconnectivity of people and devices”.

In a statement, the revenue authority says SARS’ workforce will be empowered to optimally function within this exciting changed and changing world of work.

Commissioner Edward Kieswetter says: “We cannot ignore the power of a data and technology enabled organisation, and the impact it will have on the future world of work.

“We can, however, prepare for it by consciously and actively managing the interplay between human effort and artificial intelligence. Today we take a conscious step towards building a smart modern SARS, with unquestionable integrity, that is trusted and admired.”

The taxman says the SARS of the future must be able to respond to this new environment while fulfilling the organisation’s higher purpose of enabling government to build a capable state that will ensure the well-being of all South Africans.

Since joining SARS in May last year, Kieswetter has constantly emphasised the need to boost the organisation’s technological capacity and deriving insights from data, for a “re-imagined SARS of the future,” SARS says.

It points out that the commissioner has also been on an extensive consultation campaign with staff which has redefined SARS’ strategic objectives.

This has created a need for a high-level internal and external recruitment drive to attract highly talented professionals and executives to bring SARS up to speed with advances in big data and artificial intelligence in the tax and customs environment, it adds.

SARS’ strategic objectives include, among others, providing clarity and certainty of tax obligations, making it easier for taxpayers and traders to comply, detecting those who do not comply and making it hard and costly for them.

The organisation is also in the process of modernising its systems to provide digital and streamlined services and rebuild public trust and confidence in the tax and customs administration.

As a result, SARS has advertised strategic leadership positions to attract talented and passionate executives to fill the roles of chief data scientist, chief technology innovation officer, chief financial officer, chief procurement officer, director business segment: large and international taxpayers (formerly Large Business Centre), director individual segment: wealthy and complex taxpayers, and nine regional directors as well as a director for taxpayer engagement, to list a few.

SARS says it is keen to grow and develop internal staff by recruiting some of these positions from within, but the commissioner also wants to use this opportunity to enrich the current “gene pool” with future oriented skills and some fresh perspective.

“This recruitment process will reaffirm SARS’ commitment to the transformation agenda of our country and the advancement of employment equity and diversity in the workplace,” the commissioner says.

Kieswetter adds: “We cannot simply talk about the fourth industrial revolution. It is upon us, and we must redouble our efforts to future proof ourselves by building an intelligent organisation that will provide a world-class service to compliant taxpayers, but equally detect those who are non-compliant and make it costly and hard for them.

“Our Vision 2024 is to build a smart modern SARS, with unquestionable integrity, trusted by government, the public and our international peers,” he concludes.

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