Mother-tongue manual aims to ‘demystify tax’ says Kieswetter

Building on its vision of a “smart and modern” service, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) on Wednesday launched a first of its kind multilingual tax terminology list in 10 official languages – an effort to gain the trust of taxpayers and promote compliance. 

In collaboration with the Pan South African Language Board and the department of sports, arts and culture, the revenue service published a list of 450 terms that cover tax, wills and general financial business. 

Languages include Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

The SARS Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter, launched the first volume of the multilingual tax terminology list last week.

Kieswetter said the list would “help provide greater clarity and certainty about our strategic objective in a manner that is understandable, and make it easier for taxpayers and traders to comply with these obligations…It is our mission to demystify tax and to make it easier for millions of honest taxpayers to meet their obligations.”

SARS is this year celebrating 25 years of existence. Kieswetter said the organisation’s aim remains “to collect all revenues due, ensure optimal compliance with tax and customs legislation and provide a customer service that protects our borders and facilitate legitimate trade.”

The publication of the multilingual terminology list flows from a 2016 resolution when the SARS language services unit was established, in compliance with the Official Languages Act of 2013. The unit has since 2017 adopted the mandate to develop previously marginalised languages and to ensure the use of African sign language interpreters in interaction with deaf taxpayers. 

According to Kieswetter, the tax terminology list hopes to assist not only taxpayers and traders but also SARS personnel to communicate with taxpayers using the correct terms. The Pan South African Language Board verified and authenticated the list before publication.  

Speaking at the launch of the list, deputy director at the department of sports, arts and culture’s language division, Solly Mnisi, commended the initiative. 

“We understand very well that terminology development is at the core of language development. Without terminology, we are confronted with so many challenges,” said Mnisi. 

“Preserving our languages is important, and we need to ensure that languages coexist with each other and don’t get extinct.”

The list can be accessed via the SARS website, or simply click here

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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