News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
2 minute read
3 Jul 2017
5:04 pm

Office of the tax ombudsman granted independence from Sars

Gosebo Mathope

The office is there to adjudicate disputes between Sars and taxpayers, but is still dependent on the taxman for its budget.

CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombudsman, Adv Eric Mkhawane Credit: Tax Ombudsman

With the tax filing season officially opened today, taxpayers who find themselves at odds with Sars are encouraged to approach the office of the tax ombudsman (OTO) to resolve tax-related disputes.

“In fact we don’t only focus on individual taxpayer assessment queries, we can mediate in all tax functions at Sars, such as customs,” says CEO Adv Eric Mkhawane.

Taxpayers must have exhausted all their options with Sars unless there are extenuating circumstances or the taxpayer is convinced that Sars has acted with prejudice against them.

Mkhawane says the OTO, established in terms of the Tax Administration Act, will only deal with complaints relating to procedure and service and administrative issues, and they have access to the taxpayer electronic system and can therefore immediately determine the complaint’s details.

“We cannot, for instance, adjudicate in cases where a taxpayer is disputing tax policies or specific sections of the tax act; in those cases they have to use different mechanisms to resolve the matter,” Adv Mkhawane said.

ALSO READ: SA tax ombud concerned about political stability of the country

Where Sars objects to ombudsman’s findings, this must be provided in writing. Mkhawane said that provided them with a transparency measure where the grounds for objection could also be provided to parliament as part of the annual report.

Mkhawane said at first OTO gave itself “15 days to resolve taxpayer complaints, but the turnaround period now depends on the complexity of the case and, where it takes longer, the taxpayer will be kept informed of developments in the investigation of the case”.

In January this year, amendments to the Tax Administration Act were promulgated, effecting “changes to sections of the Act that compromised the office’s independence”.

In the previous version of the act, “the Tax Ombudsman could not employ … staff directly … could only do so in consultation with the commmissioner of Sars”, said Pearl Seopela, senior communications manager for the office.

Seopela said not only staff was addressed in the amendments, but budgetary allocation as well. “In addition, the expenditure connected with the functions of the office is paid in accordance with the budget approved by the minister [of Treasury],” Seopela explained.


For more news your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.