Taxpayers get a helping

South African taxpayers are increasingly turning to the Office of the Tax

Ombud with either complaints or queries related to dealings with the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Speaking at the recent PSM Forum, CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombud Advocate Eric Mkhawane said his office was established to mediate in conflicts between taxpayers and SARS.

The office was created with the aim to establish an independent and effective recourse for taxpayers in respect of service, procedural and administrative matters.

“We are there to try and mediate between the taxpayer and SARS in terms of the complaints the taxpayer may have against SARS.”

An Ombud is an independent and impartial officer who deals with complaints about an agency or organisation, whether private or public.

Mandate of the Tax Ombud In doing its job, the Office of the Tax Ombud must review a complaint and, if necessary, resolve it through mediation or conciliation;

act independently in resolving a complaint; as well as follow informal,

fair and cost-effective procedures in resolving a complaint.

The office must also provide information to a taxpayer about the mandate of the Tax Ombud and the procedures to pursue a complaint, and also facilitate taxpayers access to complaint resolution mechanisms within SARS.

Benchmarking Advocate Mkhawane said his office had to learn from countries that had established systems so that it could draw from international best practices.

The South African Office of the Tax Ombud is modelled on the Canadian, United States and United Kingdom models.

Similar to the Canadian model, the head of the office is appointed by the Minister on a three-year renewable term.

While the Office of the Tax Ombud did benchmarking on the models of these developed nations, the South African version is much better, said Advocate Mkhawane.

 “In some respects, we are ahead. In Canada for example, they look only at service and systematic issues.

We look at service, procedural and administrative issues together with systematic issues and they don’t have access to their revenue authority system which we do.

So, when they deal with complaints they have to rely on complaints that come from the revenue authority.”

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