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Tax Ombud speaks out about independence

Tuesday, 28 April 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Ingé Lamprecht
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Author: Ingé Lamprecht (Moneyweb)

Judge Bernard Ngoepe aims to raise issue ‘more diligently’.

His office is independent of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) but there are certain areas related to its independence that he is unhappy about, the Tax Ombud says.

Retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe says in terms of existing legislation, Sars has control over the funds of his office "and that is not a very good thing”.

While his office is allowed to employ anybody, it has to be done via Sars.

Ngoepe says this is a complicated procedure, but briefly speaking, the Sars Commissioner, Tom Moyane, must also consent to the Tax Ombud’s appointments.

"Now that is not good for independence and it’s an issue which I have raised in the past and it’s an issue which I intend to raise more diligently during the coming period,” he says.

Ngoepe was appointed Tax Ombud in October 2013. His office was set up to offer a remedy for taxpayers to use in cases of service delivery failures and with regard to procedural and administrative issues without the need to escalate to the courts at huge costs and time delays.

The Tax Ombud doesn’t deal with complaints where a tax liability is disputed or considered unreasonable.

Ngoepe says his office considers whether Sars followed proper and fair procedures in coming to its determination.

The office has grown substantially from five staff members at its inception to 21 and staff numbers will probably exceed 30 by the end of the year, Ngoepe says.

This was necessary to accommodate the increase in complaints as more taxpayers became aware of the office and its services.

Ngoepe says common complaints include grievances around delayed VAT refunds.

"That could handicap a business very seriously. It endangers a business’s cash flow, particularly small businesses,” he says.

Problems relating to identity theft or fraud have also been identified.

This caused Sars to pay money into wrong accounts and when a genuine claimant comes to the fore, the money has already been paid.

Ngoepe says sometimes there are also complaints about the attitude of some officials at the Sars office.

Taxpayers have also complained that officials weren’t helpful, didn’t attend to them or were arrogant and abrasive.

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