The tax ombud’s office aims to resolve queries in 15 days — if taxpayers have exhausted all the Sars complaints channels.
The tax ombud’s office aims to resolve queries in 15 days — if taxpayers have exhausted all the Sars complaints channels.
Image: 123RF/Ammentorp

The Office of the Tax Ombud (OTO) has investigated thousands of complaints and made recommendations to the SA Revenue Service (Sars) on various systemic, administrative and procedural issues. More than 99% of its recommendations are implemented. 

The OTO has helped many taxpayers resolve their disputes when they have exhausted Sars’s complaints channels, allowing them to continue as successful businesses and productive taxpayers. Disputes resolved include making sure taxpayers can complete transactions with the required Sars documentation and receive refunds on time.

Ensuring transactions are not delayed because of Sars system issues

Having a transaction delayed because of a system inaccuracy at Sars can have detrimental effects on taxpayers and their businesses. In these cases, the ombud is ready to assist taxpayers to make sure they can complete their transactions without any unnecessary delays.

The tax ombud stepped in to help a taxpayer who required a tax clearance, but was unable to request this because Sars’s system reflected an outstanding PAYE reconciliation on their eFiling profile.

Not only had the taxpayer submitted the reconciliation, it also reflected on the Sars system. However, it was not reflecting on the eFiling profile. This meant the taxpayer could not request a tax clearance. They approached the ombud for assistance. 

The tax ombud’s mandate extends to systemic issues, which applied to this complaint as the problem was with the tax compliance system. The ombud reviewed the case and recommended Sars update its system.

Getting refunds paid on time

The OTO has also assisted taxpayers receive refunds timeously. It noticed an increasing number of complaints about delayed refund payments over the years and investigated the matter in 2017. Its final report included findings that refund payments had, in some cases, been unfairly delayed, and called the withholding of refunds devastating to the taxpayer.

When the OTO received a complaint about a delayed VAT refund payment earlier this year they decided to take the case, despite it falling outside their mandate, because they felt the delay was unreasonable.

The ombud may consider premature cases if there are sufficient arguments, with supporting documents, that show the circumstances justify the office reviewing the case as an exception to the rule.

The case involved a VAT vendor who submitted a VAT return on February 28 2020, that Sars identified for verification and requested documentation. The vendor submitted the required documents on March 5 and 10 and Sars finalised the verification process on March 19.

In the interim, the refund due to the vendor was unpaid, leaving them out of pocket. Having complied with Sars requirements, the vendor approached the tax ombud for assistance. The ombud reviewed the case and recommended Sars release the VAT refund or provide reasons for not doing so.

These two real-life cases show how the ombud has made a significant and valuable difference to taxpayers and their businesses. There are thousands more. 

Fair, fast treatment 

The Office of the Tax Ombud aims to resolve queries in 15 days — if taxpayers have exhausted all the Sars complaints channels before approaching the ombud. Their goal is to find a fair solution, and they impartially and objectively review cases that meet their mandate.

Find the tax ombud’s contact details and information on how to make a complaint on the OTO website

* This article was paid for by the Office of the Tax Ombud.

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