Tax ombud sees further rise in complaints

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.(Photo: AFP)
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.(Photo: AFP)

Cape Town – There was a 5% increase in complaints to the tax ombud in the 2016/17 financial year, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba revealed in a written Parliamentary response on Monday.

This followed a staggering 187% increase the previous year, his response revealed.

Of the complaints that fell within its mandate, the tax ombud received 92 complaints in 2013/14; 409 complaints in 2014/15; 1 172 complaints in 2015/16; and 1 236 complaints in 2016/17, said Gigaba.

The mandate of the tax ombud, whose offices opened in 2013, is to review and address any complaint by a taxpayer regarding a service matter, or a procedural or administrative matter arising from the application of the provisions of a Tax Act by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

Increased awareness about the existence of the tax ombud “led to a significant increase in the number of taxpayers approaching” the Office of the Tax Ombud, it said in its 2015/16 annual report.

During this time period, it reviewed 856 IT, VAT or PAYE complaints, 373 dispute resolutions, 317 refund complaints and 203 account maintenance complaints, among others.

This year, Tax Ombudsman Judge Bernard Ngoepe was given permission by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan to launch a probe into whether “systemic problems” at the SARS are the reason for widespread delays in the payment of refunds.

In March, SARS said many of the current taxpayer complaints pertain to VAT refunds, noting that 98.2% of personal income tax payments are processed within 72 hours.

CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombudsman Advocate Eric Mkhawane told City Press in March that the recent major changes to the legislation went a long way towards strengthening the role of the organisation.

The office, which received its budget from SARS, appointed staff in consultation with the revenue service and had previously been confined to a reactive role by being unable to propose or initiate its own investigations when it wanted to.

Changes to the above are among those that came into effect at the end of January.

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