There’s an old cliché that life’s only two certainties are death and taxes. You can’t avoid either – no matter how you try. But there are ways to make tax less intimidating.
With the advent of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) which came into effect in October 2012, not only taxpayer rights and obligations but the rights and obligations on the part of SARS in its business of revenue collection is addressed.
Suspension of Payment
These amendment and repeals of the sections have seen a welcomed improvement in taxpayer rights. One of these improvements pertains to the manner and form in which audits are conducted and reported on.
Business owners must take into cognisance that although the TAA provides for an enhancement of taxpayer rights the rights, duties and obligations of SARS cannot be forgotten.
Section 164 of the TAA provides for the Suspension of Payment of a Tax Debt whilst the debt is being reviewed by way of an objection or alternate dispute resolution. This assists the taxpayer if applied correctly. The previous stance by SARS was the “pay now argue later “principal.
Compromise the tax burden
Further assistance is provided in terms of Section 200 to 205 of the Act. This provides for the ability to Compromise the tax burden of the taxpayer on the basis of affordability. This is a highly complex application with many requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to give the taxpayer relief, but the Act does provide for such relief.
One must note that SARS has every intention to work with taxpayers to resolve their disputes and issues. They are not in the business of “closing businesses down “as is often perceived by the public, but need to ensure stable revenue collection to grow the economy of this beautiful country.
The Tax Ombudsman
The Tax Administration Act gave birth to the office of the Tax Ombudsman with the primary purpose to ensure that taxpayer rights both within the TAA and the constitution were being upheld.
Judge Bernard Ngoepe was appointed South Africa’s first Tax Ombudsman. The promulgation of the office of the Tax Ombudsman further confirms that taxpayer rights in terms of South Africa Tax Law is paramount.
The TAA also provides that Tax Practitioners need to be registered with a Recognised Controlling Body or RCB as well as with SARS in order to give advice and services to taxpayers for a fee.
This regulation was adopted to ensure that Tax Practitioners meet strict continual professional development requirements as stipulated by the relevant RCB, as well as a disciplinary process in the unfortunate incidence of misconduct on the part of the tax practitioner. This is change from the previous regime and is a further element within the TAA to protect the taxpayer and their rights.
The Tax Administration Act provides many improvements in taxpayer rights. It further provides many channels in which disputes and issues relating to tax matters can be resolved.
The TAA must therefore be seen as a paradigm shift in terms of the way the “man on the street” perceives SARS. One must note Taxpayers Have Rights, and they can execute them.