"If you go down to SARS today, you're in for a big surprise...
If you go down to SARS today, you'd better take some supplies!"
The time has come to apply for VAT registration for Cape Connect. Thus it was I duly filled out the forms, gathered the documentation, and set aside a bit of time to go pop in to the Bellville branch, as you need to apply in person. First trip to their offices - my personal taxes are filed online.
I'd already had a bit of a day by the time I got there: started by securing the accelerator linkage on Olivia before dashing through to the Big City. There, on my lonesome, I carried 12 servers down two flights of stairs in Newlands and plonked them in the truck - some of them are half my weight..! Then it was a mad dash down to Cape Cables in Montague Gardens to collect networking supplies - and I finally made it to SARS in Bellville at 12.
Only to discover a disjointed queue - outside the building. Parts of it were clinging to the available shade, and everyone who joined had to ask where it ended. After half an hour there was still no movement - they let people in in batches it seemed, armed with a number, assigned by two ladies who walk the queue and find out what you're there for. We did finally get moving though, a bit at a time.
Around then I started to wish I'd brought lunch, a snack, or at the very least my emergency Reader's Digest condensed book, which was about 500m away in the truck - but I wasn't going to duck out of the queue to get it! Nevertheless, I attempted to be friendly to a nearby waiting chick, who simply stuck her nose in the air and ignored me.
One hour into the wait I made it inside - yay! Got my ticket number, sat down on the stairs as every seat was taken. Slowly worked my way up to where I was told VAT was processed as chairs emptied at a rate of one every half hour.
You get all kinds at the SARS office. Loud old men who protest the lack of service. Friendly types who talk them into calmness. Your average tax-traveller catching up on a snooze in the back row with their cellphone on "music" mode (softly). The local hooker, dressed to the nines in nine-inch heels - well, she could have been an office worker, but she was dressed like a hooker. And your average joe, just like me, taking the next step forward in business ownership.
The whole of South African humanity ends up there sooner or later I guess.
By 2:00 I had a cushion under my bum, poised on a chair in the front row! Next to an elegantly sleeping Indian woman and a Muslim-looking elderly gentleman. All quiet on the queue front, bar the occasional electronic voice announcing a ticket and a service window number. No wonder it was a struggle to keep eyes open - many didn't succeed.
Just before 3 my number was called, and a very helpful SARS lady took my documents, processed them, gave me her email address to send one more thing, sent me on my way - and I was gone!
Three hours. And it's not even tax season.
I count my blessings though. One poor guy behind me (who wasn't up for specialized treatment as he was just a "general enquiry") had been there since 8:30 that morning!
And the stuck-up chick in the queue? She flashed me a gigantic friendly smile as she left.
So - my impressions of SARS? Their offices are actually pretty nice - well kitted out, clean and not at all government-issue old fashioned (hell, our tax bucks have to be used for SOMETHING I guess). The staff are friendly and helpful. But I reckon they could do with a library trolley, stocked with today's papers, an assortment of magazines and a novel or two. They could also do with a drinks vendor wandering the halls - and it would be REALLY helpful if more than 30 percent of the service windows were open...