Many taxpayers are experiencing frustrations in their dealings with SARS. The Tax Ombud is there to assist taxpayers if they have experienced:
- Procedural difficulties
- Service issues
- Administrative problems and the taxpayer has exhausted all avenues of appeal with SARS with respect to SARS dispute procedures.
However, the Ombud may take up a taxpayer’s complaint before all SARS processes have been followed if there are “compelling circumstances”. The most significant of these is systemic issues.
What are “systemic issues”?
The Ombud defines these as coming from causes in SARS’ practices and policies which will adversely affect numerous taxpayers. The Ombud’s Office may investigate systemic issues and recommend solutions to the Minister of Finance.
So far, the Ombud has identified twenty systemic issues. Some of the most significant are:
- Placing unjustified “special stoppers” on taxpayers – these are supposed to be placed on high risk fraud accounts and freeze any payments to taxpayers until they are lifted
- SARS not adhering to agreed timelines
- Requested documentation being received by SARS and not filed with the taxpayer’s account
- SARS illegally instituting collections from taxpayers
- Frequent follow-ups by taxpayers where SARS failed to show them the correct procedure for this and/or informing taxpayers how to escalate matters
- Assessments being revised without SARS sending the taxpayer a letter of findings (Adapted from the Tax Administration Act)
- Incorrect bank accounts being used by SARS when processing refunds and incorrectly allocated payments to the wrong taxpayer.
If you think that your complaint falls into a “systemic issue” category (ask your accountant in doubt), then you may approach the Tax Ombud without going through all of SARS’ hoops. There is no doubt that the credibility of the Tax Ombud is growing, and whilst the Ombud may still decide not to help you it is well worth giving it a shot.