Reworking the Revenue Service: Tax Collection in South Africa, 1999-2009


Between 1998 and 2009, the South African Revenue Service dramatically improved tax compliance.  The number of income-tax payers increased to 4.1 million from 2.6 million during the period.  Several internal organizational changes helped the revenue service persuade more South Africans to pay their taxes.  This case study tells the story of two of those changes in particular: the recruitment of a new cadre of managers from both within and outside the organization and a campaign to provide taxpayers with better service to encourage compliance.  The organization used diagnostic tests as well as informal recruiting to rebuild the ranks of upper and middle management, transforming the racial make-up of the organization while improving performance.  Meanwhile, in order to improve service for taxpayers, a team of managers and consultants separated back and front offices and introduced an annual "filing season" in which employees of the revenue service left their offices to help taxpayers file their returns.  In each of these changes, Pravin Gordhan, revenue-service commissioner from 1999 to 2009, played a central role, both determining policy and overseeing the details of implementation.

David Hausman drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Pretoria, South Africa in February 2010. Case originally published 2010. Additional text added in December 2013. 

Associated Interview(s):  Pravin Gordhan, Judy Parfitt

evaluation and performance
managing diversity
revenue authority
South Africa
Focus Area(s)
Financial Management
Critical Tasks
Civil service recruitment
Diversity management
Evaluating performance
Ranks and grades
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
South Africa
Case Studies
David Hausman