What are the rights of taxpayers who feel that SARS did not treat them fairly when they dealt with their tax matters?” Many taxpayers do not know where, when and how to lodge a complaint if they are unhappy with how SARS handled their tax matters or that of the clients they are representing. Therefore, it is important that they learn about the Office of the Tax Ombud (OTO), which provides an impartial and independent process for resolving tax complaints against SARS. The OTO provides a fair and simple avenue for taxpayers who have been unable to resolve a tax complaint using SARS’ complaint management processes. So, when CAN you lodge a complaint with the Office of the Tax Ombud? To avoid a complaint being rejected, it is important to know WHEN to contact the OTO for help. So, if you are unhappy or dissatisfied with a service that SARS has provided to you, what do you? Do you immediately lodge a complaint with the Tax Ombud? The answer is a big NO. You have to first lodge a complaint with SARS through its Complaint Management Office (CMO), unless there are compelling circumstances for not doing so, or your matter is a systemic issue. It is important to state clearly that you are lodging a complaint with CMO and to state the nature and period of your complaint. If you have lodged a formal complaint with SARS, does it mean that you can now approach the OTO and lodge a tax complaint against SARS? The answer is still NO. You have to give SARS a maximum of 21 working days after lodging your complaint for them to try to resolve your matter. If you do not give SARS 21 days, the OTO will reject your complaint, since the time period for SARS to resolve your complaint has not expired. If the 21 days have passed and SARS has not responded to your complaint or you are unhappy with how the matter was finalised, do you then approach the Tax Ombud? Yes, you do. Firstly, start with obtaining a complaint form, which can be downloaded from www.taxombud.gov.za. It can also be requested via email from [email protected] or via telephone from 0800 662 837. You can also collect the form from our office at Menlyn Corner, 87 Frikkie De Beer St, Menlyn, Pretoria, 0063. (Please note that the in-person collection option is still suspended due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.) Your Complaint Form must detail the information in chronological order, and you can use additional paper if the form does not provide enough space to include all the information. Attach all supporting documents and sign the form before submitting it to the OTO. If you are a tax practitioner filing a complaint on behalf of your client, the taxpayer, tax practitioner and witnesses must sign a Power of Attorney (POA) and attach it, together with copies of the identity documents of both the tax practitioner and taxpayer. You sign both the complaint form and POA, include all supporting document and send it to the OTO via email to [email protected]. What happens once the OTO receives the complaint form? The OTO will capture the completed complaint form into the system and send a letter of acknowledgement within two working days of receipt of a complaint. Thereafter, the OTO will investigate the complaint to establish whether it falls within the organisation’s mandate or not. If it finds that your complaint falls within the Tax Ombud’s mandate and authority and is valid, a letter of acceptance will be sent to you. The OTO will send recommendations to SARS on how the matter should be resolved, and notify the complainant of the status of the complaint. Recommendations have been sent to SARS, so what happens next? As per the signed MOU, SARS has 15 business days to consider the OTO’s recommendations and respond with a final report. Unfortunately, the Tax Ombud has no control over how long SARS will take to respond; however, follow-up is done to check how far SARS is with implementing the recommendations. You will be provided with feedback on the progress of your complaint every 15 business days, until SARS has finalised the complaint. The investigation has been done, and SARS has submitted the final report to the Tax Ombud. What happens next? Within four days of receiving the final close out report, the OTO verifies the actions detailed in the report against the recommendations sent to SARS and communicates with the tax practitioner about the outcome of the complaint. If we do not agree with how SARS has implemented the recommendations, the close out report is overruled and sent back to SARS, with an explanation of what was not done correctly. The matter is finalised when the OTO agrees with how SARS implemented the recommendations. If your complaint is NOT accepted, a letter of evaluation outcome will be sent to you with the reasons why the complaint was not accepted. Note that the OTO has 10 working days to complete this stage from date of receipt of your complaint. What are the common mistakes made by taxpayers WHEN submitting complaints? Some taxpayers send a complaint to the OTO about SARS, without first exhausting SARS’ internal complaints management process. Some taxpayers submit a complaint form that is not fully completed or signed. Some taxpayers fail to submit the required supporting documents. Some taxpayers ask the Tax Ombud to interpret the law. What can the OTO not do? The OTO will not be able to assist you with a complaint based on the following: Legislation or tax policy. The prevailing SARS policy or practice, 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. Matter subject to objection and appeal under a tax Act, except for an administrative matter relating to such objection and appeal. A decision of, proceeding in, or matter before the tax court. What happens if you do not agree with how your matter was resolved? You have 30 business days from the date you receive an outcome to write to the OTO and indicate why you do not agree with the decision. This matter will be treated as an OTO appeal. It will be re-evaluated by an independent specialist and presented to the OTO Appeal Committee, which is chaired by the CEO, Professor Legwaila. The decision made by this committee is final and the complainant can pursue other avenues if he/she still feels aggrieved. Talk to us Queries can be sent via email to [email protected] or you can call our call centre on 0800 662 837 If you prefer to visit the office, it is located at Menlyn Corner in Pretoria. The address is: 87 Frikkie de Beer Street. Faxes can be sent to 012 452 5013.