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Engel quits EY to take up leadership role at tax body

10 December 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Evan Pickworth
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Author: Evan Pickworth (BDlive)

Unexpected executive moves in the tax industry continued on Tuesday when the National Treasury’s former tsar of legal tax design, Keith Engel, called time on a stint of just over a year at a big four accounting firm to become deputy CEO of the South African Institute of Tax Professionals.

A gap at tax policy-making level opened up when Mr Engel — who was the chief architect of major revisions to tax laws — departed from the Treasury in June last year.

That gap widened further following the suspensions of former acting commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Ivan Pillay and strategic planning executive Peter Richer late last week, and the resignation of chief operations officer Barry Hore a few days before that.

Since 2007, Mr Hore had been the driving force behind the modernisation of SARS’s information technology. SARS was responsible for drafting policy historically.

Last week’s suspensions and resignation came in the wake of the dissolution of the SARS executive committee by new commissioner Thomas Moyane, who was appointed by President Jacob Zuma and took up his post in late September.

The organisation has been struggling to repair its reputation since former commissioner Oupa Magashula left in disgrace a little more than a year ago following an investigation into his propriety.

EY confirmed on Tuesday that Mr Engel would be leaving to pursue interests that "lie more along the lines of academia".

Mr Engel said he had decided on the change because it was a "unique fit for my set of skills and history". His post at EY had been a "very good learning experience".

Mr Engel joined EY as a partner in its Africa tax practice after his departure as National Treasury’s chief director of legal tax design, but this move made businesses and investors anxious about the future as Mr Engel had been the driving force behind changes to local tax laws. Concerns were raised in the industry that the implementation of policy may suffer, especially as businesses were already struggling to interpret the raft of new laws they were encountering.

Wishing Engel well, Jim Deiotte, Africa Tax leader at EY, said: "Keith will continue to be a positive voice around the tax policy debate taking place in SA."

South African Institute of Tax Professionals CEO Stiaan Klue said the appointment would take effect early next year, and would be a "massive gain for the entire industry". It would "add to the capacity of providing input to government on policy and technical law development".

Mr Engel has been a technical adviser to the US Treasury, a tax attorney at the US Inland Revenue Service, and has lectured at the University of Pretoria and the University of the Witwatersrand.

He was involved in the formulation of policy around negotiations for double-tax agreements between SA and its trading partners, and was closely involved in the tax relief for foreign companies that use the country as their gateway into Africa.

"There is still a gap at Treasury," said Mr Klue.

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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.


The Act requires that a minimum academic and practical requirments be set to register with a controlling body. Click here for the minimum requirements of SAIT.

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