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Tax Ombud: Lots of bark, but will it bite?

Friday, 14 June 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Rudi Katzke
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Author: Rudi Katzke (Moneywebtax)

The recently promulgated Tax Administration Act, No. 2011 (TAA), introduces the Office of the Tax Ombud (the Tax Ombud).  According to section 14 read with section 259 of the TAA, the Minister of Finance must appoint a person as Tax Ombud within one year after the commencement date of the TAA, which was on 1 October 2012.  The Minister further announced in his 2012 Budget Speech on 22 February 2012 that the Tax Ombud will be appointed during the course of this year.

In ordinary language, the term "ombudsman" (derived from the Swedish term meaning "legal representative") can be defined as "an official appointed to investigate individuals' complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities" (Oxford English Dictionary).  With its origins in Scandinavian history, it is generally accepted that the modern office of ombudsman derives from 1809, when the Swedish legislature established the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen.  The main purpose of this institution was to safeguard the rights of citizens by way of a supervisory agency that was completely independent, and which could contend with complaints submitted by the general public regarding administrative matters.

In South Africa, the Katz Commission proposed the introduction of an ombudsman to deal specifically with tax issues in 1995. Various submissions were made to Treasury in this regard, and a Tax Ombud was finally proposed in draft legislation in the 2011 Tax Administration Bill. After initial rounds of public and further comments, the Tax Ombud officially became a legislative institution on 1 October 2012.

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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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