Is your tax practitioner registered?
13 July 2015
Posted by: Author: Mark Bechard
Author: Mark Bechard (IOL)
Tax-filing season is an opportunity for the criminally inclined to defraud taxpayers, and one way of doing this to pose as a tax practitioner. You should check that someone is a registered tax practitioner before you grant him or her access to your financial affairs – and the South African Institute of Tax Professionals (SAIT) has made it easier for you to do this.
The law requires that anyone who submits tax returns on your behalf for a fee must be registered with both the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and a recognised controlling body, such as SAIT, the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) or the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. Each registered practitioner needs both a tax practitioner number and a membership number.
There are 11 recognised controlling bodies, but you don’t have to contact each one to check whether someone is a legitimate practitioner. Stiaan Klue, the chief executive of Sait, says Sait offers a free service that enables you to check whether someone is registered with any of the controlling bodies in South Africa. To verify whether someone is a registered tax practitioner, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To check that a practitioner is registered with SARS, go to www.sarsefiling.co.za and use the "Confirm practitioner registration” facility under "Quick links”.
Klue says a red flag that someone may not be a legitimate tax practitioner is if they advertise their tax-consultancy services on flyers stuck on lamp-posts.
Faith Ngwenya, the technical executive at SAIPA, says two signs that you are dealing with an unethical and potentially fraudulent tax practitioner are if:
- A practitioner charges a contingency fee – in other words, the fee for his or her services is a percentage of the tax refund that you may receive from SARS. Ngwenya says this practice is illegal.
- A practitioner is prepared to claim expenses that you did not, in fact, incur (for example, inflated out-of-pocket medical expenses).
Ngwenya says your interactions should be with a registered practitioner or their office, not with someone who claims to be acting as an agent of a practitioner.
Another type of fraudulent activity that peaks during tax-filing season is emails purporting to come from SARS that ask you to disclose your banking details.
Klue says fraudulent emails often have an address, such as email@example.com, which raises the expectation that you are eligible for a tax refund. These emails contain links to forms and websites that seem to be genuine, but the aim is to trick you into entering personal information, such as bank account details, which the criminals extract and use fraudulently.
You should disregard emails that ask for your tax, banking and eFiling details, because SARS will never ask taxpayers for such information in an email, Klue says. SARS will also not ask you to divulge your banking details over the phone, in an email or on its own or another website, he says.
You can report online fraud to SARS by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning the fraud and anti-corruption hotline on 0800 00 2870 or the SARS contact centre on 0800 00 7277.
- South African residents with foreign bank accounts who want to regularise their tax affairs have until August 12 to do so via SARS’s voluntary disclosure programme.
For more information or to apply, contact the Voluntary Disclosure Unit on 0800 864 613 or email@example.com, or go to www.sars.gov.za > "Legal & policy” > "Voluntary disclosure programme”. (Click on link below for SARS’s pdf update on the programme.)
The article on the opening of tax-filing season (dated July 4) incorrectly stated that taxpayers over 65 can claim all their qualifying medical expenses. In fact, the tax credit system was applied to over-65s from the 2014/15 tax year. As a result, if you are over 65, you may claim a tax credit of 33.3 percent of your qualifying medical expenses, plus 33.3 percent of the amount by which your medical scheme contributions exceeded three times the medical scheme contribution tax credit for the year.
This article first appeared on iol.co.za.