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Naming of SA’s First Tax Ombudsman Welcomed by Parties

Wednesday, 02 October 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Linda Ensor
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Author: Linda Ensor (Businessday)

Judge President Bernard Ngoepe as South Africa’s first tax ombudsman was on Tuesday widely welcomed as a positive step that would assist in the resolution of taxpayers’ complaints against the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

The ombud’s office was set up under the Tax Administration Act with the intention of providing taxpayers with a low-cost mechanism to address administrative difficulties that could not be resolved by SARS. The ombud will not have declaratory powers and will not be empowered to deal with tax assessments as such.

"Judge Ngoepe has sound experience in exercising impartiality, an understanding of how best to balance the powers and duties of SARS and the rights and obligations of tax payers. Above all, he is proficient in tax and administrative law," said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who made the announcement.

South African Institute of Tax Practitioners CE Stiaan Klue said Mr Gordhan had chosen an "excellent candidate" in Judge Ngoepe, who is also the chancellor of the University of South Africa. "Given his vast experience he is very familiar with the complexities of South African tax legislation and provides an objective overview of SARS ’ procedures and policies," Mr Klue said.

In terms of the act, Judge Ngoepe would have to report each year to Parliament about any major service delivery failures by SARS.

Mr Klue believed this would act as an important incentive for the tax authority to address complaints "timeously and effectively".

However, the body’s head of tax technical policy and research Sharon Smulders noted that the act prohibited the ombudsman from reviewing any matter that arose more than one year before the day on which he was appointed, unless requested by the minister to do so.

Democratic Alliance finance spokesman Tim Harris also welcomed the appointment, saying for too long taxpayers had been without an independent authority to take up issues they might have with SARS.

"The tax ombudsman should be the champion of those ordinary taxpayers who have legitimate grievances with SARS but have neither the means nor the wherewithal to take on the might of the revenue authority," Mr Harris said.

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