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Time to give the Tax Ombud more powers?

Monday, 02 November 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Ingé Lamprecht
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Author: Ingé Lamprecht (Moneyweb)

Revised SARS Service Charter to form basis upon which taxpayers can complain.

It is not an idle call to think that taxpayers should have access to some redress, particularly where they repeatedly highlight the same problems in their dealings with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to his office, the Tax Ombud has said.

Speaking at a special lecture at the University of Johannesburg, judge Bernard Ngoepe said while his office has not specifically considered that its powers should be expanded, a stronger case could be made for it, if, despite efforts to bring issues to the attention of SARS, taxpayers continue to raise the same concerns.

The Office of the Tax Ombud was officially set up in April last year to offer a free and simple remedy to taxpayers with complaints related to administrative issues, poor service or failure by SARS to recognise taxpayer rights. While it does report its findings to the Minister of Finance, it cannot compel SARS to adhere to its rulings and some argue that there may be scope to broaden its powers – including making orders for financial compensation in favour of taxpayers or suspending SARS’ actions while an investigation is ongoing.

According to the Tax Ombud’s Annual Report 2014/15, it resolved 75% of the 409 complaints that fell within its mandate in favour of taxpayers. Do these figures suggest that SARS is abusing its powers?

Eric Mkhawane, CEO of the Office, said it received different kinds of complaints. While there might be situations where SARS disregarded taxpayer rights, the observation only applied to those specific cases.

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