Tax om­bud gets more

CityPress - - Business - Le­setja Ma­lope

Re­cent leg­isla­tive amend­ments are set to make the Of­fice of the Tax Om­buds­man more in­de­pen­dent of the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) in a move that should ben­e­fit or­di­nary tax­pay­ers when they re­port an is­sue to the om­bud.

The of­fice, which is a fairly young in­sti­tu­tion with a limited track record – it was set up in Oc­to­ber 2013 – saw its pro­posal for the amend­ment to the Tax Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act get the nod last year. The amend­ment came into ef­fect in Jan­uary.

Un­der the tute­lage of its om­buds­man, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, the of­fice’s ac­count­ing of­fi­cer and CEO, Ad­vo­cate Eric Mkhawane (pic­tured), said the re­cent ma­jor changes to the leg­is­la­tion, which were ini­tially pro­posed by the of­fice, had gone a long way to­wards strength­en­ing the role of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Mkhawane said this week that be­cause the of­fice was es­tab­lished un­der Sars and funded by it, peo­ple doubted its in­de­pen­dence, but the amend­ments would change that.

The of­fice, which re­ceived its bud­get from Sars, ap­pointed staff in con­sul­ta­tion with the rev­enue ser­vice and had pre­vi­ously been con­fined to a re­ac­tive role by be­ing un­able to pro­pose or ini­ti­ate its own in­ves­ti­ga­tions when it wanted to.

Changes to the above are among those that came into ef­fect at the end of Jan­uary.

Mkhawane said the changes had added more bite to the of­fice’s om­bud work and would hope­fully trans­late to more ac­count­abil­ity in time.

“Pre­vi­ously, we could not ini­ti­ate any in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever se­ri­ous,” he said, adding that the of­fice would now be able to red-flag cer­tain trends and alert Sars be­fore­hand.

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