South African taxpayers will soon have more peace of mind knowing their taxes are being done by registered tax practitioners. SARS has called for controlling bodies to apply for accreditation, and registration of tax practitioners is set to begin on 1 July 2013.
There are currently around 56 000 tax practitioners registered with SARS. The upcoming registration process is expected to act as a validation exercise, wherein those who are currently registered but not practising will fall away.
According to Marc Sevitz,(pictured left with Evan Robinson) co-founder of TaxTim (an online virtual tax assistant), there is currently no system to keep track of the contact details and qualifications of tax practitioners.
“With errors made in the tax filing, the taxpayer is the only person held liable. With the new system, both taxpayer and practitioner can be held liable for errors. Currently, practitioners not registered to a controlling body are sometimes difficult to get hold of when consumers really need them,” said Sevitz.
With tax practitioners now forced to register with a controlling body, consumers will have easier access to liable tax practitioners.
SAIPA says self-regulation will be beneficial
The South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) has also welcomed the new requirement for all tax practitioners to be registered with an accredited controlling body.
"Based on international experience and SAIPA's own research, we are confident that this combination of self-regulation and external regulation will be beneficial to the industry and help it provide better service to its clients," said Faith Ngwenya, technical and standards executive at SAIPA.
"Effective regulation plays a key role in building the credibility of tax practitioners. It will help business people identify service providers with up-to-date skills who are governed by an effective code of conduct. This, in turn, will help strengthen the South African economy, which relies heavily on the services of tax practitioners," said Ngwenya.
She added that the new solution will offer the best of both worlds because it will allow the industry to regulate itself through existing professional organisations like SAIPA. Because tax practitioners must become members of the professional organisation, they will be bound by its code of conduct and submit to its disciplinary procedures.
Concerns about the tax transition
While SAIPA broadly welcomes this move, Ngwenya said there were concerns around the transition phase.
“One concern is how seamless the transition is going to be - we trust that SARS has done its homework to see a smooth implementation of this groundbreaking section of the Tax Administration Act,” said Ngwenya.
Another concern is the status of taxpayers whose tax practitioners elect not to register under the new system. Members of SAIPA feel that a carefully planned process must be put in place to provide taxpayers with an alternative tax practitioner who is registered.
Sevitz said consumers should try to speak to a potential practitioner personally, preferably someone with years of experience.
to get the information of registered practitioners in your province.