South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, has committed the organisation to promoting the use of historically marginalised official languages in the tax and customs environment.
The Commissioner made the commitment while addressing the launch of the SARS multilingual tax terminology publication.
The document contains 450 terms in the country’s 11 official languages.
In a statement, the revenue collector said the list covers the wide spectrum of the financial terminology, such as tax, wills and general financial business practices.
Kieswetter said through this initiative, SARS is striving to provide greater clarity and certainty to its taxpayers in the 11 official languages to “promote social justice and fundamental human rights”.
The launch of the document comes as the country commemorates Human Rights Month.
The Use of Official Languages Act (UOLA) was signed into law in 2013. The Act provides for the regulation and monitoring of the use of official languages by national government for government purposes. It further requires the adoption of a language policy and the establishment of a language unit for national departments, national public entities and national public enterprises.
SARS adopted such a language policy, gazetted on 23 November 2015, and is presently implementing the policy.
SARS said its Language Services Unit was established with a mandate to make a concerted effort to develop previously marginalised languages.
“It also supports the Taxpayer and Traders Education initiatives, as it goes to communities to educate taxpayers in their own language about the importance of tax compliance.
“This year is the 25th anniversary of SARS, a major and joyous milestone, established with the mandate to collect all revenues due, to ensure optimal compliance with tax and customs legislation, and providing a customs service that protects our borders and facilitates legitimate trade.
“Contributing to further our efforts, the multilingual tax terminology publication is not only our gift to taxpayers, traders and the citizens of South Africa, whose mother-tongue is not necessarily English, but to our staff who interact with our taxpayers and ensures that they do so using the correct terms, as approved by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB).
“We acknowledge and commend this progressive piece of work done by more than 140 contributors in realising this milestone. We acknowledge the efforts of this diverse team and convey our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, PanSALB and our SARS team.
The Commissioner said the work SARS does touches the lives of all citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable, through the revenue it collects, which enables government to provide basic services such as social grants, education and health care.
“All South Africans must understand this vital role that SARS plays. There is no better way to create this understanding than by speaking to our compatriots in their own language so that our work touches their hearts, as stated by Madiba,” he said.