Tax administration responses to COVID-19: Measures taken to support taxpayers

  • SARS is developing a tool through which taxpayers may apply for their income tax numbers online. This will be rolled out by the end of the week ending 27 March.
  • Arrangements are also underway to make drop boxes for tax papers available at all branches.
  • SARS’ dedicated Call Centres remain fully operational and available for telephonic support. Contingency planning is in place, should Call Centre staff be required to work remotely.
  • Since 15 March 2020, tax offices are closed to the public and taxpayers are encouraged to use other channels (phone and internet). Also, the tax administration’s website has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19.

    The Swedish tax authority (STA) provides extra information on tax payment postponement on digital platforms, both the website and social media. A link to information aimed for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly visible on the homepage of the STA website, and staff is well informed via the STA intranet. Information on how to apply for a deferral of tax payments or for filing an income tax declaration is provided in the interactive voice response system when calling the STA on this.

    Further, the STA is, at an initial level, working with other agencies to look into the pros and cons of setting up a common hotline for SMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Regarding enhanced services, the STA has provided additional internal guidance so that the telephone centre can provide accurate and quick information on tax payment postponement to all businesses. The STA is also looking into new technical solutions to simplify and digitalize parts of the application for tax deferral for businesses.

    The call centre of the STA is already “staffed up” due to it being the peak period of the year, as 4 May is the last day to file taxes. Staff from other parts of the STA are already reassigned (according to a plan before the pandemic). No change has been made to the opening hours: 8-18 Monday-Thursday and 8-16 Fridays. The last couple of days before 4 May the opening hours are planned to be extended, on the last day until midnight.

    Employees receive a regular update by e-mail (daily newsletter) on various issues relating to COVID-19 and on how to tackle particular tax organisational issues. In addition, a dedicated webpage was created on the Swiss Federal Tax Administration’s website, with all tax topics related to COVID-19. The webpage is updated continuously with questions that have been received and the answers (Q&A section).

    Taxpayers are encouraged to use digital channels to fulfil their tax liabilities. Communication took place via the administration’s official web site. Similarly, continuous and immediate information like deferral of tax filing and payment are provided to all taxpayers through the official web page, social media accounts and e-mail service. An appointment request call has been created by our tax communication centre to help taxpayers who are over 60 years old or disabled.

    All the applications addressed to tax offices should be made through the Interactive Tax Office Application (web or mobile app) or postal services until 10 April 2020. All tax returns for income from immovable and movable capital, wage, and other income should be filed through pre-filled tax return until 10 April 2020. Payments of taxes, fees and administrative monetary penalties which can be paid with credit card should be made through the app or banks.

    The scope of payments (below TL 50 000) with credit cards through the Interactive Tax Office Application is extended to include 11 type of payments related to VAT, Personal and Corporate Income Taxes.

    The State Tax Service (STS) actively encourages taxpayers to communicate remotely, and recommends using the electronic services via a specialized client software within the existing information and telecommunication system. Meetings with the business community and business associations, citizens and taxpayers have been cancelled during the quarantine period. The contact centre and the mobile application continue to work.

    The STS is issuing a series of video guides on how to use electronic services and information letters, which in response to the most frequently asked questions of the taxpayers. It also publishes lists of links and internet resources for obtaining information or administrative services.

    Information and news is published on the website, in mass media, in the telegram channel and other social networks. A COVID-19 banner was created on the official STS web portal and on the sub sites of the STS regional offices, where up-to-date information, announcements and video materials on the prevention of the coronavirus’s spread is published. In addition, twenty-seven public services can be obtained online through a public services portal (various areas). The STS also provides targeted electronic mailing of informational materials to the members of public councils and representatives of relevant business associations, certain clients.

    From the very first day of the quarantine, the determined statute of limitations for applying for administrative and other services and the provision of such services was interrupted. From the date of quarantine termination, this period will continue taking into account the time elapsed to its termination.

    HMRC has a set up dedicated webpages and a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to COVID-19 and to get practical advice. Up to 2 000 experienced call handlers are available to support businesses and individuals when needed. Helplines operate a wide range of hours and are currently open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm. Large Businesses also can speak to their individual Customer Compliance Managers.

    The US Internal Revenue Service has established a special section on its website focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the COVID-19. This page will be updated as new information is available.

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