Tax ombud re­port shows tax­pay­ers bet­ter un­der­stand what the of­fice does

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More tax­pay­ers are com­plain­ing to the Tax Ombud, and, in an over­whelm­ing 87 per­cent of cases, the ombud finds in favour of the tax­payer, the an­nual re­port of the Of­fice of the Tax Ombud, which was re­leased this week, shows.

In the 12 months to the end of March this year, the ombud’s of­fice re­ceived 5 904 queries, of which 2 133 were within its man­date. This is a 130-per­cent in­crease in the num­ber of valid com­plaints com­pared with the pre­vi­ous oneyear pe­riod.

The Tax Ombud’s of­fice was es­tab­lished in Oc­to­ber 2013 to en­sure that tax­pay­ers are treated fairly. The of­fice deals with ser­vice, ad­min­is­tra­tive and pro­ce­dural mat­ters that arise from the ap­pli­ca­tion of tax laws by the South African Rev­enue Ser­vice (SARS).

In the year to March 2016, the of­fice saw a de­cline in the num­ber of com­plaints out­side its man­date and an in­crease in those within its man­date, indi­cat­ing that tax­pay­ers are be­com­ing more aware of the of­fice and what it deals with.

Com­mon com­plaints in­clude de­lays in the pay­ment of re­funds, the cor­rect dis­pute-res­o­lu­tion pro­ce­dures not be­ing fol­lowed, pay­ments into the wrong bank ac­counts and in­ter­est be­ing charged on amounts that have al­ready been paid.

The 2015/16 an­nual re­port shows that 40 per­cent of com­plaints re­lated to tax as­sess­ments, 17.5 per­cent to dis­pute res­o­lu­tion and 14.9 per­cent to re­funds.

The re­port also lists the 10 most se­ri­ous cur­rent and emerg­ing is­sues. The num­ber-one is­sue was a de­lay in pay­ing re­funds, fol­lowed by SARS fail­ing to up­date bank­ing de­tails and al­lo­cat­ing pay­ments in­cor­rectly.


There are on­go­ing con­cerns about the of­fice’s in­de­pen­dence.

“We do not re­port to SARS, and have never re­ported to SARS. The Tax Ombud is ac­count­able to the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance,” the ombud, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, says.

How­ever, the of­fice can ap­point em­ploy­ees only af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with SARS and it can­not ini­ti­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tions. In ad­di­tion, the find­ings of the ombud are not bind­ing on SARS.

“Strength­en­ing the in­de­pen­dence of the of­fice of the Tax Ombud is vi­tal and ur­gent,” Judge Ngoepe said in the re­port.

The of­fice has made some moves in this re­gard. A mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with SARS has been drafted that will pave the way for ser­vice-level agree­ments.

Leg­isla­tive amend­ments are ex­pected to be passed at the end of this year or early next year, ac­cord­ing to chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Tax Ombud’s of­fice, Ad­vo­cate Eric Mkhawane. These fo­cus on strength­en­ing the in­de­pen­dence of the ombud, and re­quire SARS to pro­vide rea­sons when it does not ac­cept his find­ings. They will also al­low the ombud to ini­ti­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tions, with the ap­proval of the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance.

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