Cape Town - More than 1 million taxpayers have filed their tax returns just 22 days after the South African Revenue Service (Sars) launched its tax filing season. Last year it took five weeks to reach the 1 million mark.By 07:30 on Monday Sars had received 1 001 162 income tax returns for the 2012 tax season.“This is a phenomenal response by the South African taxpaying public. The levels of early filing have exceeded even Sars’ own expectations,” said spokesperson Adrian Lackay.During the corresponding period last year Sars had received 681 497 tax returns; by 07:30 on Monday morning 319 665 more returns had been submitted. This represents a rise of 62% for returns submitted during the first three weeks of the tax season.The highest rate of submissions was on Monday July 2 2012 when the Minister of Finance officially launched the tax season; 82 225 tax returns were received on that day.The higher rate of submissions and much faster turnaround times in processing tax returns has enabled Sars to pay R3.07bn in refunds to 501 096 taxpayers over the past 22 days. “This is a significant, direct injection into the domestic economy and household incomes,” said Lackay in a media release.For the corresponding period last year, Sars refunded 323 197 taxpayers a total R2bn.This year there is again a strong migration to electronic filing via Sars branches or e-filing, as only 3 796 returns were submitted manually (a decrease of 32% from last year). A total of 620 564 returns have been submitted via e-filing, 32% higher than for the same period last year. At branch offices Sars has assisted taxpayers across the country to submit 376 802 returns electronically. Returns submitted with assistance from Sars at branch offices are 82% higher than for the same period last year.Because a far higher number of taxpayers approached Sars branch offices for assistance much earlier this year, waiting periods and queues at the biggest Sars offices have been longer over the past three weeks. The situation at branch offices is being monitored daily and Sars will make additional resources available to assist taxpayers over the coming weeks.Sars thanked all taxpayers for submitting their income tax returns, and encouraged them to continue to submit returns early to avoid the last-minute rush. - Fin24*Follow tax updates on your social network feeds. Join Fin24's Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages.