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Minutes: Port Elizabeth Stakeholders meeting with SARS 16 September 2013

20 September 2013   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Author: SAIT Technical
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Author: SAIT Technical

Matters for discussion at SARS Stakeholders meeting Monday 16 September 10am

The following matters emanated from a joint meeting held on Monday by representatives of SAIT, SAIPA and SAICA in preparation for the upcoming SARS stakeholders meeting. 

All representatives from all three professional bodies have numerous examples of the issues raised below and examples will be submitted.  However we believe the meeting should be about the greater issues themselves and how they can be resolved. It serves no purpose to only deal with the specific case examples and them report back thereon without resolving the underlying causes of the problems illustrated by the examples.

Debit Pull process being removed

Points Raised by Practitioners

This is going to cause major problems for taxpayers, tax practitioners and SARS.Why did SARS not engage with stakeholders like the professional bodies on this matter especially as regards how to phase it out.Why were Tax Practitioners and other stakeholders not given more warning about this change and more time to enable us to engage with our clients in a more orderly and structured manner.  Its going to take a lot more than a month to get this change and the new requirements across to our clients especially monthly accounting clients. Are SARS aware of the administration requirements (different bank procedures) to move clients to debit push procedures especially where TP do monthly returns for clients.Imagine the account maintenance nightmare that is going to be created because of late payments and clients making payment using incorrect reference codes for different tax types (Vat, Paye etc) Tax Practitioners are not comfortable AT ALL  to take on the responsibility now required to be accepted on a debit pull authority during the phasing out period.Can SARS give us reasons for this sudden approach to phase out debit pull payments, clients are demanding explanations.

Outcome from meeting

SARS representatives acknowledged that there were challenges ahead especially as regards the timing, bank procedures, short notice and misallocations. They could not give us any feedback as regards earlier engagement with stakeholders other than to confirm that our concerns are being dealt with at national level at present. They were unable to assist as regards the bank and other administration issues raised or give any assurances as regards our concerns about the responsibility factor practitioners are having to accept during the phasing out period and the continued use of the debit pull system. We will have rely on our national offices to deal with SARS nationally in this regard.

 Problem Cases and SARS Responses 

No or little responses at branch level of problem cases. Just too many examples of simply no response being received once a problem case has been escalated to branch managers level.It is clearly evident from the number of members complaints across all three professional bodies that the workload on Duane Adams and his team is just too onerous.

Even when a case has been acknowledged there is little or no follow ups or report backs by SARS. We believe the large business unit has an appointed "relationship manager" Mr Robb Ross that is working fantastically for large businesses. While we acknowledge that the numbers are a lot less,  why can’t more people be appointed to handle and solve problem cases with a full follow through principal to practitioners so that we can experience the same level of service from SARS as large businesses do. 

Outcome from meeting

SARS acknowledged that all problems directed to Duane Adams or his team must be acknowledged on receipt and responded to in a reasonable time. They committed to ensure that would happen but requested that only once the other normal channels had been followed without success should the matters be addressed to Duane or his team.  SARS acknowledged that a system similar to what is being followed by the large business unit would be effective but not logistically possible. They did however promise to investigate such a possibility. The use of the SSMO (ssmo@sars.gov.za) alternative was always an option but SARS did indicate that matters should be directed to Duane and his team first.  

Tax Clearance Certificates

Same old problems as discussed in all previous stakeholder meeting, very little improvement evident particularly as regards cases that are not simply approved on first request.Still seems to be two systems at SARS resulting in one year getting TCC and the next not for returns or payments outstanding going back years.Outstanding returns and payments popping up, up to 10 years supposedly overdue.EMP recons reflecting as submitted and yet TCC rejected because EMP recon outstanding (seems to be 2008 and 2009 years) Account maintenance / allocation problems ongoing. The account PAYE maintenance feature is useful. However, sometimes this feature and statements of accounts do not match up.Name changes when converting a  CC to Company is causing problems.Practitioners have given examples when after their online applications were declined and advised clients they simply reapplied on line to then be approved!Please can we have feedback on when the new TCC system is to be introduced. Was it not supposed to be in place by now?

Outcome from meeting

SARS acknowledged that the matters raised were valid but that human error was mostly the cause of the problems raised. They suggested that practitioners do a detailed check of outstanding returns and payments as well as ensure that the correct names match all tax types before submitting TCC applications. They confirmed that the new TCC process was in progress but could not give any indication as to when it would be introduced. 

Refunds Audits and Reviews

Turnaround times for refunds seems to be getting longer again Why are SARS not allowing other expenses as reflected on medical aid certificates? 

Various complaints that no letters of findings are being issued after audits.Still getting complaints that SARS simply disallow all input on any vat review that are not responded to. In most instances no response due to the fact that taxpayer not aware of review requirements. First of all why are ALL input then disallowed and secondly the SARS official should have satisfied himself that he has made contact with the taxpayer or his TP telephonically before raising the additional assessment. Often info has been loaded but SARS don't seem to have received it. Remember Taxpayers have to go through the time consuming and costly ADR process.We have had instances where auditors have approached taxpayers directly and called on them or corresponded with them without notifying the appointed TP even after having first corresponded with the TP. We need clarity on correct audit procedures by SARS auditors in this regard.

Outcome from meeting

SARS promised to investigate the various examples submitted. They confirmed that letters of findings on all cases should be issued and again promised to investigate any examples submitted.  SARS also confirmed that auditors should be following the sequence as indicated on the tax return when needing information. It was not correct for auditors to call taxpayers directly if the tax practitioner was indicated as the first port of call on the tax return. They should be contacting the tax practitioner first. Practitioners also pointed out that this should be via email and not telephone calls.  They promised to investigate but did indicate that some of these calls were coming from a national call centre and not the local office. SARS warned practitioners that all NOO and NOA should be submitted on time as they were becoming more strict in that regard. Also the correct codes should be used throughout the ADR process.

Change in Bank details

This is causing a tremendous amount of "badwill" for SARS. Sars approach to this matter appears to be far too rigid. Even when we as the TP have made a clerical error and changed the bank details when efiling and there is no actual change in the bank account the poor taxpayer has to go to SARS to verify his bank details that have not changed. Surely there must be a system in place to avoid or overrule this. We have had many complaints from members that SARS seem to require taxpayers getting refunds to go through the entire verification process at SARS even when they have not even changed their bank accounts but are getting a refund. Please clarify why this is the case and what the taxpayer can do if he finds himself in this predicament.Why does it take 21 days after the info has been provided in person at SARS - it should be instantaneous.  How is it possible for SARS to refund money into a taxpayer account without matching a bank account number with the taxpayers name?

Outcome from meeting

SARS pointed out that their offices were open on Saturday mornings during tax season to assist with taxpayers not able to visit SARS during working hours but also indicated that most of the matters raised were out of their hands and as such we will need to rely on our national offices to take these concerns up at national level. SARS also pointed out that the mobile offices could be used in remote areas to update bank details.  SARS confirmed that taxpayers should only be required to verifydetails for bank account changes but did indicate that if taxpayers details at their bank such as an ID number did not match with SARS details a verification procedure at SARS was also necessary. The verification of bank details could be avoided if any variances (other than bank account) were corrected via normal channels prior to the assessment being raised. Practitioners enquired if it was not possible to implement a system where taxpayers could make an appointment even via an internet portal for a specific date and time in a more regulated and systematic system. This could ensure taxpayers can update their bank records at minimal hassle and within reasonable time constraints. It was suggested that this option could be introduced together with the normal procedure of just calling at the SARS office even if it took some time to get an appointment but at least it gave taxpayers who found it difficult to be out their office for a lengthy period of time a structured alternative.  It did not appear as if this ideacould be implemented locally. As such the idea should be directed via professional bodies at national level as this is a very big concern for all taxpayers and we really need to try toget a more regulated system of appointments implemented.

Vat Registrations

Again same old problems as discussed at prior meetings.No feedback on  problem cases.Turn-around times are far too long.At the interviews the consultants comb through applications and may take up to 15min just going through the supporting documents, and then we sit through an interview. Our issue is that the consultants go through everything, and then the application gets declined at data-screening.  The reasons why they are sent back are sometimes valid, but the consultants should have picked it up, as the data-screening and posting back to the client/us takes time, and by the time the documents come back to us, some of the documents have expired (SARS has a 3 month policy) and we have to ask the client for updated information to re-apply. Practitioners don’t always know what we are to submit. We have a list of the required documents on the vat application itself, but it is only a guide line.

For example SARS will not accept an original bank letter or a municipal account older than 3 months. The application does not mention that whoever signs the CRA01 form that a copy of their ID needs to accompany the application. The consultants are also hesitant on accepting an income statement if there are no originally stamped bank statements. With regards to lease agreements, sale agreements, offer to purchase they are sometimes rejected on the basis that some information is missing or inaccurate or has a different heading. (For example some have been declined as the lease agreement does not mention who the representatives are – their signatures alone are not sufficient)  There has even been one rejected because the Deed of Sale was called an Offer To Purchase (just another legally accepted name for a Deed if Sale). There have also been instances where SARS requires details of the seller or clarity on outstanding matters of the seller on the deed of sale when it’s the purchaser who is applying for VAT registration. How can the sellers vat or tax position affect the purchasers application and how can SARS disclose matters about another taxpayers shortcomings to us or the applicant?We are also not always updated on changes to your acceptance policies. Why don't we get an email or be given a notice when calling at the TP unit if you change anything as regards supporting documents and or procedures.Please can you give feedback on when new vat registration process is likely to be in place.

Outcome from meeting

SARS acknowledged that they had experienced problems in this regard but they had been sorted out. Duane Adams reminded practitioners that he had sent out an email notice of a recent change to registration procedures. He also pointed out that practitioners should constantly visit the SARS website to keep updated on new SARS requirements. SARS also acknowledged that they should be more consistent with registration policies and procedures and training agents. SARS could not give feedback on when the new registration process was likely to be implemented. 

General matters

Emails and SMS- Practitioners get sms and emails from SARS about outstanding tax (sms) or confirmation of a provisional tax return submission (email) with no name or tax reference number reflected so we can’t determine the client.

SARS promised to investigate.

Tax Directives - Tax Practitioners don't seem to be able to make application via efiling for tax directives for staff of a registered client. Can be done via the CLIENTS efiling profile but not via TP efiling profile.

SARS promised to investigate.

STC Payments - as there is no longer a STC payment option on any internet banking site a direct transfer can no longer take place. The call centre advised that the SARS -ITA beneficiary ID could be used, however the STC references is not accepted. SARS no longer accepts cheques which are over R100k for STC/dividends so how does the taxpayer pay any STC still due?

SARS promised to investigate.

Name changes - It appears this can be done via  efiling for income tax but no other tax types.

SARS promised to investigate.

Efiling Time Outs - Various members have complained about timeouts while efiling returns resulting in them been thrown out of efiling altogether and losing all captured data.

SARS promised to investigate and get their IT to assist where possible.

Tax Practitioners and TAA- More acceptance of information verified by registered Tax Practitioners should be forthcoming by SARS now that all tax practitioners are governed by the TAA, this would go a long way to solve many of the problems identified above.

This point was not discussed.

Stakeholder meeting - We would like to suggest a system be implemented that the next stakeholders meeting be set at the end of each current meeting while all stakeholders present to ensure regular meetings with adequate notice period for all.

SARS agreed and the next stakeholders meeting was set for Tuesday 12 November at 10 am.

Comments...

Helen H. Mclean says...
Posted 28 September 2013
So many of the above issues relate to problems I am having with clients. I would like to send these individual cases to Duane and his team. Please can you email me his email address (my email h@hh.co.za)
Phillene Opperman (Koën) says...
Posted 27 September 2013
In general it does not seem if SARS has answers to any of the questions raised. The responsibility is just once again placed on the Tax Payer and the Practitioner to ensure that SARS does their job. It is becoming more and more impossible for us to stay afloat time and income wise. SARS is making it impossible for Practitioners and clients(especially smaller clients) to stay complient.

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