With the Adobe Flash Player rapidly approaching its official end-of-life, South African Revenue Services is updating its online tax forms.

Adobe Flash Player will reach its official end-of-life on 31 December 2020, at which point support for the technology will be withdrawn. The end-of-life scheduling follows a number of security concerns about what was once one of Adobe’s flagship platforms: Adobe Flash has already been dropped from Apple’s MacOS Safari browser.

South African Revenue Services (SARS) uses Flash as part of its reporting process, meaning that taxpayers using SARS forms after the end of December deadline may face disruption. SARS has commented on the upcoming transition, stating that the transition away from Flash is a routine part of its integration of technologies that help taxpayers comply with their tax and payroll obligations and that the process represents an “ongoing effort to modernise” its infrastructure.

Transition Challenges

SARS has pointed out that there are two challenges involved in the Flash end-of-life transition:

  • Flash Player: The end of Flash support means that the technology will stop being upgraded after 31 December and solutions to issues that arise after that date will not be provided. This means that emerging security issues will not be addressed and Flash users may find themselves vulnerable to serious online threats.
  • Browser capabilities: Many companies that provide internet browsers will also no longer support Flash after 31 December 2020. Users that upgrade their browsers after that date will find that the Flash player is no longer functional.

SARS is in the process of managing the Flash end-of-life challenge, working to mitigate the risks for taxpayers and facilitate a seamless transition. More specifically, SARS has been replacing the forms that integrate Adobe Flash with the latest HTML5 technology. Priority is being given to the higher profile tax forms including those necessary for:

  • Individual income tax
  • Corporation tax
  • Taxes on trusts
  • IRP6 provisional tax returns
  • Payroll tax

The updates are already underway: SARS’ VAT 201 form was replaced on 4 December 2020 with a new HTML5 form.

Low volume forms: SARS has focused its transition to HTML5 on its high-volume forms but has stated that some forms in lower circulation will continue to feature Adobe Flash after 31 December 2020. SARS has anticipated that this may cause functionality problems and has requested that taxpayers use either the Microsoft Edge browser or the Google Chrome browser when interacting with low volume forms online.

SARS letters and assessment notices: SARS has pointed out that the letters and assessment notices that it sends to taxpayers are rendered in Adobe PDF, a different technology to Flash and one which is not scheduled for end-of-life.

SARS has expressed its commitment to replacing all online forms that use Adobe Flash with HTML5 in 2021. Provisional taxpayers in South Africa that are required to file their annual income tax returns by 29 January 2021 will be able to do so using eFiling or the SARS MobiApp.

Find out more about South Africa’s tax and social security measures in our South Africa Global Insight Guide.

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