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Tax profession now recognised in law
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Tax profession now recognised in law

The end of 2012 will see landmark changes in the South African Tax fraternity as far reaching amendments to the Tax Administration Act, 2011 are expected to be signed into law by President Zuma before the ANC’s Mangaung election Conference.
In terms of the imminent tax law, all tax advisers are required to find a controlling body before 1 July 2013. The main purpose of the regulation of the tax profession is to protect the public against rogue tax practitioners.

Preparing for the new role of tax advisers, the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT) was appointed as the National Board Examination adjudicators for tax professionals on 30 November 2012 under the mandate of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). This follows the profession’s official recognition of the tax profession’s designations on 29th of November by the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in terms of the National Qualifications Framework Act, 2008 (NQF). The professional designations registered are the Master Tax Practitioner (SA) and General Tax Practitioner (SA).

The tax profession is one of the first to be registered by SAQA since the NQF Act came into effect on 27 July 2012. The tax profession now joins the list of professional designations whose statuary and non-statuary professional bodies will have to comply with criteria set out by SAQA.

In addition to recognising professional designations, SAQA has implemented the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) which is responsible for the standards setting and quality assurance of occupational qualifications on the Trades and Occupations sub framework and also managing the qualification requirements for registration on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

Stiaan Klue, Chief Executive of SAIT, warns that the tax profession has to rebuild its trust with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and public.  “Years of unregulated industry created its scars.”

“Recently the South African Revenue Service (SARS) found that 9.5% of tax practitioners, who assist some four million taxpayers, are not tax-compliant in that they are either not registered with SARS or their own tax affairs are not in order”, says Klue.

During the Budget speech earlier this year, Minister Pravin Gordan criticised Tax Practitioners, alleging that they owed over R260 Million to the State, and accounted for more than 18000 outstanding income returns in their personal capacity.

 “In recent years tax legislation has become very complex and the non-compliance highlighted by the minister can be directly linked to the Practitioners’ technical ability to perform the work.”

Ronel de Kock, senior lecturer in taxation at the University of Pretoria, believes this new occupational qualification will address the issue of training and certification of tax practitioners.”

Looking at SARS’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017, “non-registered practitioners owe SARS on average four times more tax than their registered professional counterparts. As a recognised Professional Body, SAQA believe that SAIT now has their own Taxation Disciplinary Board which can take action against practitioners if they commit fraud or act unprofessionally”.

Klue believes that SAIT is best qualified to act as a controlling body due to its tax-focused Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and their code of conduct which is geared specifically to tax practitioners. “SAIT offers three levels of professional membership; from a tax technician who requires a certificate in tax and one year of practical experience, to the general tax practitioner who has three years’ experience and is qualified as either a CA, a Saipa accountant or an FPI – accredited financial planner, to the master tax practitioner, who fulfils the above requirements in addition to holding a post graduate tax qualification.”

As the tax industry moves away from self-regulation into a more transparent National framework and government oversight, Stiaan Klue remarks: “Being recognised by SAQA as both a Professional Body and the official adjudicators of the National Board Examination under the NQF, is crucial in establishing SAIT tax professionals as the pre-eminent practitioners of choice,” remarks Stiaan 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.

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