The recent cabinet reshuffle that saw Pravin Gordhan replaced by Malusi Gigaba has no bearing on the approval given to the tax ombudsman, retired Judge Ngoepe, to investigate alleged undue payment delays to taxpayers.
This is according to the chief executive of the Office of Tax Ombudsman Advocate Erik Mkhawane.
The request to review tax collectors’ unreasonable delays in paying what is commonly known as “due to you” refunds was based on complaints and general public outcry.
According to the ombudsman office, the core of these complaints was that the delays were taking longer than in previous years.
“We must note that as an organisation we promote tax compliance and Sars is not only within its rights but obligated to ensure that any refunds are valid before they are paid out. The question is therefore not simply whether or not there are delays, but whether the alleged delays are justified or not,” said Mkhawane.
He explained that recent amendments to the Tax Admninistration Act of 2011 enabled the tax ombudsman to initiate a review such as the current one. The only condition was that the tax collector watchdog should obtain the approval of the finance minister.
The approval given to the ombudsman by the former deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas, did not specify the period the tax ombudsman could probe.
Mkhawane emphasised that the ombudsman was not at liberty to investigate matters such as the loss of executives or alleged “Sars capture”.
“The tax ombudsman can only investigate to the extent that relates to service, procedural or administrative issues arising from the application of tax legislation by Sars,” said Mkhawane in an exclusive interview.
The procedure going forward, in terms of the act, is that recommendations are not binding on the taxpayer or Sars. This is because, unlike the public protector, the tax ombudsman is not a Chapter 9 institution. But if tax ombudsman findings are not accepted by either party reasons for such a decision must be provided to the tax ombudsman.
Those reasons can form part of the ombudsman’s annual report that gets tabled in parliament.
When the current review is concluded, the watchdog will present its finding to both Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane and Finance Minister Gigaba.