Amendments to the Tax Administration Act have given the Office of the Tax Ombudsman greater independence and, importantly, the ability to initiate an investigation into systemic issues affecting taxpayers.
The power to initiate an investigation was a significant, and unexpected, change to the amendments, which came into effect on January 19.
Although the tax ombud will still need to receive approval from the finance minister for such investigations, it is now free to investigate systemic and emerging issues related to a service matter, application of the provisions of the act, as well as procedural or administrative provisions of the act without a formal complaint being lodged.
This brings the tax ombud in line with similar entities in other jurisdictions such as Australia, the US and Canada.
In an interview with City Press, CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombudsman Advocate Eric Mkhawane said that the office was in the process of identifying areas of concern that it would like to investigate. One of the areas will most likely be around the delays by the SA Revenue Service (Sars) to pay refunds.
“Although Sars tells us that 90% of refunds are paid in time, that still means 10% are not and the value of those refunds can be substantial –