How to hold SARS accountable

How to hold SARS accountable

The office of the Tax Ombud was established to act as a bridging gap between SARS and the taxpayer. But, taxpayers do not always have a direct line to connect with the Tax Ombud. A taxpayer may lodge a complaint with the Tax Ombud after they have exhausted all the SARS complaints mechanisms unless they are compelling circumstances for not doing so.  Otherwise, the process below will have to be followed:


There are three ways through which one can lodge a complaint with SARS:

  1. Via eFiling. See the step-by-step guide on how to lodge a complaint via eFiling. Please note that you have to be registered on eFiling to be able to do this. You may not download or print the form to send it by any other means.
  2. By visiting the branch. If you do, you may need to ensure that you have spoken to all relevant higher people before you leave the branch
  3. By calling the SARS Complaints Management office (CMO) on 0860 12 12 16.

Here are a few tips on winning the battle against SARS poor service/administrative issues and making sure you have a winnable case when you approach them or the Tax Ombud:

 


Be specific: 

If you have a complaint, it is better to call the Complaints Management Office (CMO.) If you call SARS contact centre to get a reference number, specify that it is a complaint with a complaint, specify that it is a complaint and not a follow-up. If you keep calling the call centre and saying you are following up, it may remain just that, a follow-up. You need to specify that you have a complaint so that it is treated as one. Some complaints will need case numbers, make sure you call the contact centre to get one.


Try again: 

Sometimes, a complaint lodged on eFiling may be rejected for one reason or the other. If you feel you have a  compelling case, pick up the phone and call the CMO so that they may record and lodge the complaints on your behalf. You may also call them if you are not sure how the process works on eFiling or if you are too far from a SARS office. For example, I once lodged a complaint about a delayed refund (because refunds should be paid 7 workings days after verification or audit is finalised) but the system kicked me out and rejected my complaint. The complaint was successfully lodged after calling the CMO.


Build a compelling case:

The most important thing to do when dealing with SARS is to build a good case, this is whether you are raising a complaint, an appeal or an objection. You will need a system to record your interactions with SARS (at each touchpoint with them). You also need to store documents and supporting documents relevant to the taxpayer’s case. The system of recording your interactions with SARS should allow you to build a timeline of how the case is developed and to ensure that you have all the documents you need for this case.


One such system is to make sure each client file/folder contains relevant subfolders that will help you gather the important and necessary information. The other is to build a dashboard that records the timeline and communications with SARS. This can take any form, for example, Word or Google docs, a task management tool like Asana, Trello or Monday.com.


NB: You do not do this because something has gone wrong, but because things may go wrong and often they do go wrong. Below is an example of client folders that tax practitioners or individuals can use:


The advantage of doing things this way is that you will save yourself a lot of time when doing the actual complaint, even an appeal or objection. The Tax Ombud form will ask you to summary your case in chronological order. So, if you had been building a case over time, this process will be a breeze. You have all the facts and timeline at your fingertips.


 

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Owing SARS, what are your options?

Owing SARS, what are your options?

If you follow my posts, you would have come across one of my articles that dealt with the approach SARS has taken to deal with the non-submission of a tax return. This is a follow up to this article.


So now you read that SARS will prosecute you for non-submission and charge you an R5 600 fine if convicted (of course, you will be convicted because there is overwhelming evidence against you/your company that you did not submit a few tax/vat returns.) You then went on to submit all your outstanding returns but you now owe SARS large sums of money.


Taxpayers are required to be fully compliant in all their tax matters by submitting and paying their taxes on time. If taxpayers are not compliant or have outstanding tax debt the SARS Debt Management department is committed to assisting businesses and individuals to become fully compliant. There are a few avenues that SARS uses to assist in this regard.


How much do I owe?

If you are not 100% certain how much you owe SARS, you will need to contact their call centre to enquire about your outstanding balances. If you stay not far away from a SARS branch, a visit to the SARS branch would not kill you. When you visit, just ensure you have all your particulars with you to avoid being turned away. Lastly, if you were registered for e-filing, run a statement of account to see how much you owe SARS. Your next step is to make the outstanding payment to SARS. Contact SARS or your tax practitioner to help you load a payment that can then be released from your bank account.

What if I can’t pay the outstanding amount now?

Every taxpayer must be aware that it is best practice to always file a tax return on time in order to avoid penalties and interest. But, if you are currently unable to pay your taxes, please contact SARS without delay. The following options may be available to you:


  1. Payment arrangements: 

Under certain circumstances, SARS can reach an agreement with a taxpayer to defer a tax debt for later payment or for payment by instalments. A deferred payment arrangement is s when a taxpayer can not settle the full amount owing to SARS immediately and want to apply for a payment plan to settle the debt. Under this option:


  • SARS has the option to decline the request.
  • Interest will accrue on any unpaid debt.
  • If you don’t adhere to the conditions of the payment arrangement the payment agreement will be terminated and normal collection proceedings will resume.
  • The taxpayer must suffer from a deficiency of assets or liquidity, which is reasonably certain to be remedied in the future.
  • Notwithstanding this deficiency, the taxpayer must anticipate that there will be income or other receipts which can be used to satisfy the tax debt.
  • At the time of concluding the agreement, the prospects of collecting the tax debt must be poor or uneconomical, but likely to improve in the future.
  • Moreover, the deferral should not prejudice the collection of the tax debt

2. Compromise agreement:

In certain circumstances, a compromise may be requested on taxpayers’ outstanding tax debt. A SARS Debt Compromise is a process whereby a taxpayer requests that SARS permanently “write-off” a large portion of their debt, with the balance being paid in full by the taxpayer immediately on the condition that the taxpayer complies with any conditions as may be imposed by SARS.


A compromise cannot be considered if the taxpayer disputes the debt. Therefore while a matter is under objection or appeal, a compromise cannot be considered. If the taxpayer wants to compromise he has to withdraw his objection or appeal.


What if you do not agree with the debt? 

If you are not in agreement with your tax debt, you may lodge a dispute.  To lodge a dispute please go to objections and appeals. Even though you are disputing the tax debt you remain under obligation to pay the debt whilst your dispute is being handled.


Why you should consult Eva Financial Solutions if you need a debt arrangement or compromise
  • We deliver on our promise
  • Compromise solutions are difficult to obtain
  • For this reason, it is important that it is handled by qualified and dedicated tax practitioners.
  • We have a team of experts who will always work to get the best result.
  • Click here to contact us
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