The tax industry has been lobbying for an ombud system as a cost-effective remedy for taxpayers for some time.
The Tax Ombud, it was envisaged, could offer a remedy for taxpayers to use in instances of failures in service delivery and enforcement of rights with regards to tax administration, without the need to escalate to court at great cost and time delay.
The Tax Administration Act (TAA) that came into effect on October 1 last year, provides for the appointment of an ombud within one year. While the industry seems cautiously optimistic about the appointment, serious questions are already being asked about whether the ombud would be independent, given his or her appointment by the Minister of Finance, and whether taxpayers would not still be forced to approach the courts as the ombud can't compel the South African Revenue Service (Sars) to adhere to its ruling.
Section 240A of the Tax Administration Act, 2011 (as amended) requires that all tax practitioners register with a recognized controlling body before 1 July 2013. It is a criminal offense to not register with both a recognized controlling body and SARS.