The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is in the headlines again for the delayed payment of refunds to taxpayers. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted that it welcomes the announcement that the Tax Ombud Judge Bernard Ngoepe is launching an investigation into the systemic failures at SARS that has resulted in the delayed refund payments.
“These delays are across the board and include VAT, Income Tax, Employee Tax Incentives and Diesel refunds which are causing considerable financial distress to businesses, especially small businesses,” said Alf Lees, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance, in a statement.
CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombud advocate Eric Mkhawane told Justmoney that during the course of this financial year the ombudsman has received about 4000 complaints, and at last check about 50% of these were relating to the delayed payment of tax refunds.
“If you recall, the Office for the Tax Ombud was established to look at service related issues, procedural issues, and among other things, complaints of that nature coming from taxpayers. Now one of the issues that has been coming up is this type of complaint where taxpayers feel that their refunds have been delayed unduly,” he said.
According to Mkhawane, since the Tax Ombud was established in 2014, the issue of refunds has come up multiple times. Until now these complaints could only be resolved on a case-by-case basis, however, this changed at the beginning of the year when new legislation was signed that allows the Tax Ombud to look beyond just an individual case at the issue as a whole and whether it is systemic and an underlying issue that SARS should address.
“There are two approaches to that. If we receive a complaint, because we need to have that complaint resolved, we will deal with that complaint. But now since January we are able to investigate any systemic issue that is causing these delays in the payment of refunds. This is the other category, this is the second part to the review. We are looking now, even without a complaint we can look at is there an issue, is there a problem with the SARS system, is there any problem that is causing delays. This is the secondary investigation and this is the one we have to get an approval from the [Finance] Minister,” explained Mkhawane.
Since the Tax Ombudsman was officially launched in 2014, a lot of the complaints come from individual taxpayers, however, he noted that corporates have also lodged complaints. As the Ombudsman becomes better known people are utilising it to voice their grievance with the tax authority.
Mkhawane noted that if people have similar issues as those who have approached with complaints regarding the payment of their tax refunds, they should submit a complaint to the Tax Ombud.
You can contact the Office of the Tax Ombud on 0800 662 837 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Handy tip: You can apply for tax assistance with TaxTim through Justmoney, click here.