Below is the process of lodging a complaint.
To obtain a complaint form, visit the Office of the Tax Ombud or contact the Office by telephone, fax or email to request a copy of the complaint form. The form is also available on our website.
Complete the form. Take the time to read through the form and gather the necessary information before completing it. Please document the factual situation of your complaint in chronological order. Attach all the supporting documents relevant to the complaint. Ensure that the form is completed in full. Write down the reference numbers from SARS or, if escalated to a SARS branch, indicate the name of the branch, date and person you escalated the case to.
All complaint forms must be signed and dated. If the form does not allow you to relate your complaint fully, use extra paper which must be attached to your complaint form. The Office of the Tax Ombud will not accept unsigned forms. Taxpayer representatives must confirm their authority to act on behalf of their clients through a fully completed power of attorney. If there is not enough evidence to support your complaint, the matter may be closed. However, we will first give you an opportunity to substantiate your complaint or provide the necessary evidence.
Simplified Process for lodging a complaint.
Please submit your complaint to the Office of the Tax Ombud within a reasonable time after SARS has completed its review of the complaint.
Once we have received your form, the Tax Ombud will investigate the complaint and decide how to handle it if it falls within our mandate, otherwise we will advise on alternative remedies.
If there is not enough evidence to support your complaint, the matter may be closed. However, we will first give you an opportunity to substantiate your complaint or provide the necessary evidence.
Please submit your complaint to our office as soon as SARS has completed its review of the complaint. We strive to resolve complaints within 15 business days of accepting them, and will let you know if the complaint cannot be resolved within this period.
If you are unsure whether your problem falls within the mandate of the Tax Ombud, you can phone or email us. Our trained and professional staff will listen to your complaint and advise you accordingly.
Please note: If you are complaining on behalf of a taxpayer please ensure that you submit a signed copy of a Power of Attorney.
What can the Tax Ombud do?
The Tax Administration Act authorises the Tax Ombud to:
– Review a complaint and, if necessary, resolve it through mediation or conciliation
– Act independently in resolving a complaint
– Provide information to a taxpayer about the mandate of the Tax Ombud and the procedures to pursue a complaint
– Facilitate access by taxpayers to complaint resolution mechanisms within SARS to address complaints
– Identify and review systemic and emerging issues that impact negatively on taxpayers.
– Make a recommendation to SARS on how a complaint should be resolved.
These matters could be about SARS’ service or procedural or administrative provisions of a Tax Act.
The Tax Ombud has the authority to determine, independently of SARS, how a review should be conducted and whether a review should be terminated before it is completed.
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.
To exhaust the available complaints mechanism, a taxpayer must have lodged a complaint with the SARS Complaints Management Office.
What are these compelling circumstances?
Section 18(5) of the Tax Administration Act sets out the following factors the Tax Ombud shall consider when determining if a circumstance may be “compelling”:
– the request raises systemic issues
– exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms will cause undue hardship to the requester
– exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms is unlikely to produce a result within a period of time that the Tax Ombud considers reasonable.
The Tax Ombud must inform the requester of the results of the review or any action taken in response to the request, at a time and in the manner chosen by the Tax Ombud.
WHEN TO SUBMIT A COMPLAINT
The Office of the Tax Ombud can help you resolve any service; procedural; and/or administrative disputes that you have with SARS. First seek to resolve a dispute directly with SARS at your SARS branch or, if dissatisfied with the outcome, escalate the matter to SARS’s Operational Service Escalations and Support. If still unresolved, you may submit your complaint to the Office of the Tax Ombud. Where does the Tax Ombud fit?The Tax Administration Act, 2011 (the Act) seeks to consolidate the administrative and procedural provisions of the various tax laws into a single Act. It seeks to promote a better balance between the powers and duties of SARS on the one hand, and the rights and obligations of taxpayers on the other. Our objective is to make sure the relationship between SARS and you is more equitable, transparent and fair. The creation of an independent and impartial Tax Ombud is a critical part of achieving the aims of balance of power within tax administration. The independent and impartial nature of the Tax Ombud becomes clear when we look at ways in which taxpayers can attempt to resolve administrative complaints and set things right. Essentially, there are two kinds of disputes with SARS: disagreements on the administration of law and disagreements on the interpretation of law.
Disputes on the administration of tax laws:
A: Lodge with SARS
First seek to resolve a complaint directly with SARS at the SARS branch or, if dissatisfied with the outcome, escalate the matter to SARS’s Operational Service Escalations and Support.
B: Lodge with the Tax Ombud
The Act authorises the Tax Ombud to:
• Review complaints from taxpayers about service; procedural; and/or administrative matters arising from the application of the provisions of a tax Act by SARS;
• Engage SARS staff to resolve complaints;
• Act independently in resolving a complaint;
• Follow informal, fair and cost-effective procedures to resolve a complaint;
• Identify and review systemic and emerging issues related to service matters or the application of the provisions of the Act or procedural or administrative provisions of a tax Act that impacts negatively on taxpayers;
• Report to the Minister of Finance his findings about the nature, SARS response and systemic resolution of complaints; and
• Inform SARS of its assessment of individual complaints and systemic reviews.
Section 18(2) authorises the Tax Ombud to determine, independently of SARS, how a review will be conducted and whether a review should be terminated before completion.
Section 18(4) of the Act states that the Tax Ombud may only review a request if the requester has exhausted the available complaints resolution mechanism in SARS, unless there are compelling circumstances for not doing so.
Section 18(5) of the Act sets out the following factors the Tax Ombud shall consider when determining if a circumstance may be “compelling”:
• If the request raises systemic issues;
• Exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms will cause undue hardship to the requester; and/or
• Exhausting the complaints resolution mechanisms is unlikely to produce a result within a period of time that the Tax Ombud considers reasonable.
Section 18(6) of the Act requires that the Tax Ombud inform you 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.
C: Lodge with the Public Protector
If you remain dissatisfied with a matter after having exhausted the SARS internal complaints process and the Tax Ombud complaints resolution mechanism, you may lodge a complaint with the Public Protector. Nothing prevents you from lodging a complaint with the Public Protector from the onset, but it is anticipated that most matters would be resolved at SARS or the Tax Ombud before following the more protracted process at the Public Protector where the necessary tax administration expertise may be less accessible.
Matters handled by the Public Protector include:
• Dishonesty or improper dealings with respect to public money
• Improper enrichment
• Receipt of improper advantage
• Improper prejudice as a result of:
o Abuse of power
o Unfair, capricious, discourteous or other improper conduct o Undue delay/violation of a human right
o Other decision taken or situation brought about by public authorities
WHAT TO EXPECT
We will do everything possible to find a solution to your problem. We strive to resolve complaints within 15 business days of accepting them, and will let you know if the complaint cannot be resolved within this period. If there is not enough evidence to support your complaint, however, the matter may be closed. Our complaint resolution efforts will include:
• Reviewing your complaint to determine how it will be managed and preparing a preliminary assessment of your complaint;
• Sending your complaint and supporting documentation to SARS;
• Evaluating SARS’ response and, where we deem appropriate, conducting further investigations of your complaint;
• Turnaround time – We strive to resolve complaints within 15 business days of accepting them, and will let you know if the complaint cannot be resolved within this period;
• Summarising the outcome for your complaint in a report and sending it to you and SARS;
• Maintaining a neutral position and looking at all sides of the problem, recommending corrective action where appropriate and necessary;
• Making recommendations for corrective action. Please note the Tax Ombud cannot make binding decisions. Such recommendations may include:
o A formal apology for a service related matter;
o Correction of procedural and/or administrative errors; and/or
o A provision of written reasons.
WHAT TO DO WHILE YOUR COMPLAINT IS BEING ADDRESSED BY OUR OFFICE
Where tax is due and while the Tax Ombud or the Public Protector is dealing with your complaint, you should continue to pay the tax amounts that you accept are due. If you stop or delay your payments you will be charged interest and penalties.
How do Penalties work?
An Administrative Non-Compliance Penalty (admin penalty) is a penalty a taxpayer must pay for non-compliance with various requirements. Currently the penalty is only levied for the late or non-submissions of returns. SARS also issues an admin penalty for “failure to update address details” if the outstanding returns admin penalty notice is returned as “undelivered”. Any taxpayer who does not submit their return will incur this penalty and has to pay the penalty to SARS. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the admin penalty, it is advisable to submit the outstanding return (or update the address details) to stop further admin penalties as new admin penalties will be imposed every month that the return remains outstanding.