Nicolette Dirk, finance writer, Justmoney.co.za
Earlier this week the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, officially launched the SA Tax Ombud.
The Ombud will review and address complaints by taxpayers regarding service, procedural or administrative issues relating to their dealings with the South African Revenue Service (SARS). It was announced in October last year that retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe will be the Tax Ombud.
“The Tax Ombud is an additional and free avenue to deal with complaints by taxpayers that cannot be resolved through SARS’s internal mechanisms. The Tax Ombud’s office draws on comparable institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom,” said Gordhan.
The Minister intends for the Ombud to be a simple and affordable remedy to taxpayers who have legitimate complaints that relate to administrative matters, poor service or the failure by SARS to observe taxpayer rights.
Marc Sevitz, co-founder of online virtual tax assistant, TaxTim, said it was a good thing that there was now an independent body where taxpayers could complain to when it came to processes related to SARS.
What are the limitations to the Tax Ombud?
The Tax Ombud may not review legislation or tax policy, SARS policy or practice generally prevailing, other than to the extent that it relates to a service matter or a procedural or administrative matter arising from the application of the provisions of a Tax Act by SARS.
The Ombud may also not review a matter subject to objection and appeal under a Tax Act, except for an administrative matter relating to such objection and appeal. A matter that needs to go before the tax court may also not be reviewed by the Tax Ombud.
The Tax Ombud’s office must review a complaint, and if necessary, resolve it through mediation or conciliation with SARS officials specifically identified to interact with the Tax Ombud’s office. The Tax Ombud may also only review a complaint after a taxpayer has exhausted SARS’ internal complaints resolution mechanisms.
Direct access to the Tax Ombud will only be allowed if there are compelling circumstances for doing so.
Sevitz said while it is good that the Ombud can be involved in processes related to services, he questioned how useful it will be to taxpayers who have queries about objections and appeals.
However, Sevitz is concerned over whether the Tax Ombud will have enough muscle to protect consumers that have been let down by SARS. “This is still a new process and hopefully it will evolve where the Ombud will be able to look at not only the process, but also be able to contribute in challenging the legislation, based on complaints received from taxpayers,” said Sevitz.
To contact the Ombud call 0800 662 837 or email firstname.lastname@example.org