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Tax ombud gets more bite

Mar 05 2017 06:00
Lesetja Malope

Johannesburg - Recent legislative amendments are set to make the Office of the Tax Ombudsman more independent of the SA Revenue Service (SARS) in a move that should benefit ordinary taxpayers when they report an issue to the ombud.

The office, which is a fairly young institution with a limited track record – it was set up in October 2013 – saw its proposal for the amendment to the Tax Administration Act get the nod last year. The amendment came into effect in January.

Under the tutelage of its ombudsman, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, the office’s accounting officer and CEO, Advocate Eric Mkhawane, said the recent major changes to the legislation, which were initially proposed by the office, had gone a long way towards strengthening the role of the organisation.

READ: Something is rotten in RSA, cautions tax ombud

Mkhawane said this week that because the office was established under SARS and funded by it, people doubted its independence, but the amendments would change that.

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.

Mkhawane said the changes had added more bite to the office’s ombud work and would hopefully translate to more accountability in time.

“Previously, we could not initiate any investigation, however serious,” he said, adding that the office would now be able to red-flag certain trends and alert SARS beforehand. 

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