Many of us see SARS as that horrible master who just wants to take our money at every opportunity possible, and it’s money they didn’t even work for. Sometimes you look at an assessment and you even wonder what they are trying to do. Maybe they even issue an assessment and go on to recover monies owed by you by issuing an instruction to your bank to deduct whatever they feel is due to them. If this happens, what are your options?
Once the Revenue Authority issues an assessment on your tax return and they have issued a notification for the tax payable or refundable under your tax return, you can:
- Choose to accept the assessment
- Ask for reasons as to how SARS arrived at the issued assessment. This must be done within 30 days from the date of the assessment
- You can choose to lodge an objection within 30 business days from the date the assessment is issued or within 30 business days after receiving the reasons on how SARS arrived at its assessment
SARS has a detailed guide on how you may file a notice of objection. However, I would advise that you consult a professional tax practitioner to assist you:
- Ascertain if SARS’ assessment is correct
- Determine if the relevant tax laws were applied correctly
- Correctly lodge a Notice of objection on your behalf
Tips to get your objection right:
- Ensure that you have all the supporting documents for the amounts you are objection to justify your reasons for objecting to the assessment. (For example, if you believe SARS missed your Medical Aid contributions, then you must have the supporting medical aid certificate when you lodge your objections)
- Ensure that you indicate the tax type(s) and tax years that you which to proceed and object
- Ensure that you select the items to dispute against by selecting the relevant tick boxes
- Ensure you have selected the correct source codes/ transaction code of the disputed item is displayed. It is important that you get the correct source codes as SARS may reject the Objection based on the fact that you put an incorrect code even though the objection is on valid grounds.
- Watch that you distinguish between dispute amount and requested amount. Again, SARS may turn back your objection if the distinction between these two is not shown. The disputed amount is the amount that has been charged for interest or penalties for late payment are displayed. The requested amount indicate what you believe the amount should be. This is important because if this amount and the amount above are the same, SARS will reject the NOO on that technicality.
An objection that does not comply with the rules of objections and the Tax Administration Act may be disallowed. In terms of the rules, you may submit a revised objection within 20 days of receipt of the notice of invalidity by SARS
If the objection is disallowed, you may elect to accept the outcome or appeal against the decision. If you elect to appeal the outcome, then you may elect to take the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) route or the litigation route (via the tax board if less than R1 million or the tax court in all other cases).
You can initiate ADR by indicating that you wish to make use of the ADR process in your notice of appeal. Within 30 business days of your notice of appeal, SARS will inform you whether the matter is suitable for an ADR process. The ADR process must be concluded within 90 days.
If the dispute is resolved between you and SARS, it must be recorded and signed by you and a SARS representative. A settlement agreement must be approved by a senior SARS official. SARS will issue, where necessary, a revised assessment to give effect to the agreement reached by ADR. If the dispute is not resolved by ADR you may continue to appeal to the Tax Board, if the tax in dispute is below R1000 000, or the Tax Court.
Again, I want to stress out the need to consult a professional Tax Practitioner to assist you with this process. if you have gone through all these processes and have now won your case against SARS (where SARS issued unnecessary assessment without proper foundation), may you recover wasted costs incurred (consultations with lawyers and tax practitioners or accountants fees) through the unnecessary conduct of SARS officials?
The decision to use the services of professionals rests on the taxpayer. However, it goes without saying that the complexity of tax laws and regulations renders it necessary for one to consult with tax lawyers, accountants and tax practitioners. Currently, there is no formal authority covering whether taxpayers can recover their costs from SARS. But, practices in other tax jurisdictions allows taxpayers to recover damages in cases where they have suffered financial losses due to the conduct of the revenue authorities. In South Africa damages may be awarded by a competent court if the taxpayer can prove that he/she suffered financial loss as a result of the conduct of SARS.