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South Africa Launches Tax Ombud

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

08 April 2014

On April 7, 2014, South Africa's Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan officially launched the Tax Ombud, whose objective is to address complaints by taxpayers regarding service and procedural or administrative issues concerning the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Minister Gordhan noted that "the Tax Ombud is an additional and free avenue to deal with complaints by taxpayers that cannot be resolved through SARS's internal mechanisms. The Tax Ombud's office draws on comparable institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom."

The Tax Ombud is intended to be a simple and free remedy for taxpayers who have legitimate complaints that relate to administrative matters, poor service, or the failure by SARS to observe taxpayer rights. It may not review legislation or tax policy, or a matter subject to objection and appeal under a tax Act, except for an administrative matter relating to such objection and appeal, or a decision of, proceeding in, or matter before the tax court.

In discharging its mandate, the Tax Ombud's office must review a complaint and, if necessary, resolve it through mediation or conciliation with SARS officials specifically identified to interact with the Tax Ombud's office. The Tax Ombud may only review a complaint after a taxpayer has exhausted SAR's internal complaints resolution mechanisms.

Retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe, the first Tax Ombud said: "Our challenge as the office of the Tax Ombud is not just about affording the taxpayer a fair hearing, or the provision of service. It is also about providing information that is easily accessible and understandable. It also renders well-reasoned decisions in respect of actions taken by it."

"The office operates independently of SARS, and also treats with strict confidence the communication between it and the taxpayer," he added. "Given all these as well as other considerations, the office of the Tax Ombud expects to contribute towards boosting the taxpayers' confidence in tax administration, resulting, hopefully, in even better tax compliance."

The Tax Ombud will report directly to the Minister of Finance, and its annual report will be tabled in parliament by the Minister.

TAGS: South Africa | compliance | tax | tax compliance | law | tax authority | legislation | Africa | Tax

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