The Tax Ombud (“OTO”) is an impartial and independent office established in 2013 with the objective of reviewing and addressing taxpayers’ complaints against SARS. The Tax Administration Act (“ACT”) authorizes the OTO to:
- Take on complaints, from a taxpayer, against SARS;
- Engage SARS staff to resolve complaints;
- Act independently in resolving a complaint;
- Follow informal, fair and cost-effective procedures to resolve a complaint;
- Identify and review systemic and emerging issues related to service matters or the application of the provisions of the Act or procedural or administrative provisions of a tax act that impact taxpayers negatively;
- Report to the Minister of Finance his findings, SARS response and systemic resolution of complaints; and
- Report to the Commissioner at quarterly or other agreed intervals.
The office of the Tax Ombud may only deal with complaints lodged against SARS. The complaints must relate to service, administrative or procedural issues and the complaints must relate to the application of tax legislation.
- are, for example, unhelpful, unprofessional or rude call centre agents or branch employee failing to provide the requested information.
- are, for example, issuing a notice of assessment which does not have the required information such as the name of the assessed person or date of assessment.
- are, for example, conducting an assessment without providing the concerned taxpayer with a notice of assessment or issuing a “third party appointment” (instructing the taxpayers’ bank to pay money to SARS on behalf of the taxpayer) without giving the taxpayer ten-day advance notice.
What types of complaints may the office of the Tax Ombud not deal with?
The OTO may not review the following:
- Legal disputes on the interpretation of tax laws;
- Tax policy;
- SARS policy or practice generally prevailing, other than to the extent that it relates to a service matter or a procedural or administrative matter arising from the application of the provisions of tax legislation by SARS; 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.
A taxpayer should first seek to resolve a complaint with SARS directly, before the taxpayer may lodge a complaint with the OTO. There are two avenues that a taxpayer may utilise to lodge a complaint with SARS directly:
- At the taxpayer’s SARS branch; or
- A taxpayer can escalate the matter to SARS’ Operational Service Escalations and Support.
Step 2 of lodging a complaint: Lodge complaint with the Tax Ombud
Only once all available avenues, to resolve the complaint directly with SARS, have been exhausted can a complaint be lodged with the OTO. However, under compelling circumstances, a taxpayer may lodge a complaint directly with the OTO, without first trying to resolve the complaint directly with SARS. Section 18(5) of ACT sets out that the following factors shall be considered by the OTO when determining if a circumstance may be compelling:
- If the request raises systemic issues;
- Exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms will cause undue hardship to the requester; or
- Exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms is unlikely to produce a result within a period of time that the OTO considers reasonable.
The OTO’s complaint resolution efforts includes:
- Reviewing the complaint to determine how it will be managed and preparing a preliminary assessment of the complaint.
- Sending the complaint and supporting documentation to SARS.
What to expect once complaint is lodged- Continues
- Evaluating SARS’ response and where appropriate, conducting further investigations of the complaint deemed.
- Turnaround time: The OTO endeavours to resolve complaints within 15 business days of receipt of the complaint.
- They will contact the complainant if the complaint cannot be resolved within this time period.
- A closeout report, summarising the outcome for the complaint, will be sent to the complainant and SARS.
- Throughout the entire process, the OTO will maintain a neutral position and look at all sides of the problem, recommending corrective action where appropriate and necessary.
- Since the OTO cannot make binding decisions, it may make recommendations for corrective action. Such recommendations may include –
- A formal apology for a service-related matter; or
- Correction of procedural and/or administrative errors; or
- A provision of written reasons.
Section 18 of the ACT authorises the OTO to determine, independently of SARS, how a review will be conducted and whether a review should be terminated before completion. While section 18(6) of the Act requires that the OTO inform the taxpayers of the results of the review or any action taken in response to the request, but at the time and in the manner chosen by the OTO.
- Online (www.taxombud.gov.za);
- OTO’s offices (Menlyn Corner, 2nd Floor, 87 Frikkie de Beer Street, Menlyn, Pretoria);
- Telephone (0800662837);
- Fax (012 4525013);
- Post (PO Box 12314, Hatfield, 0028); or
- Mail (email@example.com).
- Document the factual situation of a taxpayer’s complaint in chronological order including all case numbers relevant to the complaint from SARS and attach all supporting documents;
- Make sure to use the relevant tax reference number;
- Before the desired outcome, a taxpayer needs to indicate the tax period, in which the complaint arose e.g. 2016;
- Indicate a taxpayer’s desired outcome of the complaint. Once the complaint form is received, the OTO will capture the complaint and issue a letter of acknowledgement; and
- The OTO will decide how to handle it or recommend alternative remedies to you.
Once a taxpayer has completed the form in full, the taxpayer should sign and date the form and all other relevant documents. However, when a taxpayer is using a representative, the taxpayer must submit the following additional documents:
- A power of attorney form, downloadable from OTO’s website; and
- Certified ID copies of the complainant and the representative.
Where tax is due and while the OTO is dealing with a taxpayer’s complaint, the taxpayer should continue to pay the tax amounts that are due. If the taxpayer stops or delays his payments, the taxpayer will be charged interest and penalties by SARS.