FISCAL strength plays an important role in sustaining government delivery targets and the economy in general, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said at the official launch of the 2012 tax season on Monday.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) expects more than 5-million taxpayers to submit income tax returns over the next five months.

Filing season this year comes amid warnings in recent months over taxpayer fatigue and SARS's subsequent drive towards greater compliance, focusing on wealthy individuals, tax practitioners and trade intermediaries.

Fiscal sustainability was important for the government to deliver services to millions of poor South Africans, Mr Gordhan said.

The government would be able to continue delivering services despite its debt levels, the minister said. At levels of about 40% of gross domestic product (GDP), South Africa's debt levels were manageable and the country was "better off" than other countries, he said.

The minister noted, however, that the 2008-09 recession caused a R60bn loss in revenue, which was yet to be recovered.

The government was doing "everything possible" to sustain manageable debt levels while also delivering services to South Africans, Mr Gordhan said.

Given the global environment and fiscal and growth challenges, it was important all stakeholders continued to support the development of the "right kind of compliance system", he said.

He was aware that in some instances, taxpayers' money was not being used as effectively as it should and that in many instances a lack of money was used as "an excuse" for inadequate service delivery and implementation of government programmes.

"We want to assure taxpayers that we will continue to increase our efforts to ensure effective use of the money and effective implementation, and secondly that we're getting value for money," Mr Gordhan said.

maswanganyin@bdfm.co.za