SARS sorry for mistake with forms - after it was caught out by death of Adobe Flash

Business Insider SA
  • Taxpayers are struggling to submit some online forms after SARS was caught unawares by the demise of Adobe Flash Player.
  • Adobe warned three years ago that it is killing Flash Player, and SARS started to migrate some of its forms that work with the software.
  • However, it (wrongly) assumed it still had some time to do the rest.
  • For more articles, go to

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has apologised “unreservedly” as some taxpayers are struggling to submit its eFiling forms that are still using the now-defunct Adobe Flash software.

Once wildly popular, the technology has become less relevant as newer internet standards like HTML5 took over.

Back in 2017, Adobe announced that it was planning to end Flash by stopping to support and update it at the end of 2020.

SARS says it was aware of Adobe’s decision, and had already migrated its most-used forms to HTML5 and other platforms.  This includes income tax returns, as well as PAYE and VAT forms.

But more than half of its online forms still use the Adobe Flash technology – including for dividends tax, excise duties and transfer duty declarations.

SARS now admits that its “erred” by assuming that Adobe Flash Player would continue to function after Adobe ended its support at the end of 2020.

In an interview with 702's The Money Show, Intikhab Shaik, head of technology and solutions delivery at SARS, told presenter Bruce Whitfield that SARS did not expect Adobe would “actually block” Flash Player from working. This happened on 12 January 2021.

“This error has created frustration to many taxpayers to whom we owe an apology,” SARS said in a separate statement.

A conveyance attorney told Whitfield that his firm has now struggled for more than a week to submit documentation to settle a client’s transfer duty due to errors related to Adobe Flash.

He says that the guidance provided by SARS to bypass the problems has not worked.

Shaik said SARS has already migrated 20 of its 44 forms that use Adobe technology, and that a further 16 should be migrated by the end of this week. Eight more will be migrated over the course of this year.

“In addition to the high number of forms that are required to be migrated from Adobe Flash Player to the chosen HTML5 platform, the migration itself is very complex and requires the development, testing and deployment of new forms,” SARS said in a statement. “These contain many data fields, which are underpinned by thousands of technical, administrative and complex business rules to ensure integrity of data, efficient processing and accurate assessment results.”

SARS has now published an online guide for those struggling with Adobe Flash Player issues, and is setting up a dedicated toll-free number to assist with these queries. The latter should be live by next weeks.

Compiled by Helena Wasserman

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