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OUR
MANDATE

​The mandate of the Tax Ombud is to review and address any complaint by a taxpayer regarding a service matter, or a procedural or administrative matter arising from the application of the provisions of a Tax Act by SARS; and review, at the request of the Minister or at the initiative of the Tax Ombud with the approval of the Minister, any systematic and emerging issues related to a service matter or the application of the provisions of this Act or procedural or administrative provisions of a tax Act.

Constitutional Mandate

Chapter 10 of the Constitution requires public servants and the departments in which they work to abide by democratic values and principles, including: 

  • A high standard of professional ethics 
  • Efficient, economic and effective use of resources 
  • The provision of impartial, fair and equitable service 
  • Transparency and accountability
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Legislative Mandate

The mandate of the Tax Ombud is to –
(a)          Review and address any complaint by a taxpayer regarding a service matter or a procedural or administrative matter arising from the application of the provisions of a tax Act by SARS.
(b)          Review, at the request of the Minister or at the initiative of the Tax Ombud with the approval of the Minister, any systematic and emerging issues related to a service matter or the application of the provisions of this Act or procedural or administrative provisions of a tax Act.

The Tax Ombud’s responsibilities are set out in section 16(2), and are thus to: 

 

  • Review a complaint and, if necessary, resolve it through mediation or conciliation 
  • Act independently in resolving a complaint 
  • Follow informal, fair and cost-effective procedures in resolving a complaint 
  • Provide information to a taxpayer about the mandate of the Tax Ombud and the procedure for pursuing a complaint 
  • Facilitate access by taxpayers to complaint resolution mechanisms within SARS to address complaints 
  • Identify and review systemic and emerging issues related to service matters or the application of the provision of the Tax Administration Act or procedural or administrative provisions of a Tax Act that impact negatively on taxpayers.
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Limitations of the Mandate

In terms of section 17 of the Tax Administration Act, the Tax Ombud may not review the following: 

a) Legislation or tax policy 
b) 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 a Tax Act by SARS 
c) A matter subject to objection and appeal under a Tax Act, except for an administrative matter relating to such objection and appeal 
d) A decision of, proceeding in or matter before the tax court.

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Reviewing a Complaint

In terms of section 18 of the Tax Administration Act: 

(1) The Tax Ombud may review any issue within our mandate on receipt of a request from a taxpayer. 

(2) The Tax Ombud may— 

(a) determine how a review is to be conducted; and 

(b) determine whether a review should be terminated before completion. 

(3) In exercising the discretion set out in subsection (2), the Tax Ombud must consider such factors as: 

(a) the age of the request or issue; 

(b) the amount of time that has elapsed since the requester became aware of the issue; 

(c) the nature and seriousness of the issue; 

(d) the question of whether the request was made in good faith; and 

(e) the findings of other redress mechanisms with respect to the request. 

(4) The Tax Ombud may only review a request if the requester has exhausted the available complaints resolution mechanisms in SARS, unless there are compelling circumstances for not doing so. 

(5) To determine whether there are compelling circumstances, the Tax Ombud must consider factors such as whether: 

(a) the request raises systemic issues; 

(b) exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms will cause undue hardship to the requester; or 

(c) exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms is unlikely to produce a result within a period of time that the Tax Ombud considers reasonable. 

(6) The Tax Ombud must inform the requester 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 Tax Ombud.

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Accountability

The Tax Ombud is legally obliged to protect your confidential information. All staff is required to sign an Oath of Secrecy. 

When the Tax Ombud accepts a complaint, we will attempt to resolve it at the level at which the complaint can most efficiently and effectively be resolved. In so doing, the Tax Ombud will communicate with SARS officials, identified by SARS, who must provide requested information. Section 21(2) of the Tax Administration Act states that SARS must allow the Tax Ombud access to information in the possession of SARS that relates to the Tax Ombud’s powers and duties. The Tax Ombud may request information classified as “taxpayer information” and “SARS confidential information”. 

The Tax Ombud or any person acting on the Tax Ombud’s behalf may not disclose information of any kind that is obtained by or on behalf of the Tax Ombud, or prepared from information obtained by or on behalf of the Tax Ombud, to SARS, except to the extent required for the purpose of the performance of the Tax Ombud’s functions and duties.

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Resolutions

Section 20 of the Tax Administration Act sets out how the resolutions and recommendations of the Tax Ombud are dealt with: 

(1) The Tax Ombud must attempt to resolve all issues within the Tax Ombud’s mandate at the level at which they can most efficiently and effectively be resolved and must, in so doing, communicate with SARS officials identified by SARS. 

(2) The Tax Ombud’s recommendations are not binding on taxpayers or SARS.