What are systemic issues?

For the Office of the Tax Ombud (OTO), a systemic issue is a particular matter that can be regarded as the underlying cause of a complaint that affects or will affect many taxpayers in the tax system. Systemic issues may have to do with the way specific SARS systems function, how it drafts and implements policies, ractises or procedures, or even how it applies or disregards legislative provisions.

A systemic investigation arises when an issue is identified that may impact many taxpayers or a segment of the population. Our Office conducts reviews of the individual service complaints and telephone calls received to identify possible trends. We engage our Recognised Controlling Bodies (RCBs), tax professionals, academics and community support structures while continuously scanning and receiving media queries to identify systemic issues.

Investigating systemic issues

The Tax ombud is required to obtain permission from the Minister of Finance before investigating issues identified as systemic, if it relates to an area that is not raised in a formal complaint. This is a requirement in terms of Section 16(1)(b) of the Tax Administration Act (TAA). Where the issue is identified from formal complaints that fall in the Tax Ombud’s mandate in terms of section 16(1)(a), the OTO can investigate the systemic issue without Ministerial approval as provided for in s16(2)(f).

How we identify the most serious systemic and emerging issues

The OTO considers various factors when considering whether issues that taxpayers encounter are systemic. These factors are:

  • The impact on taxpayer rights;
  • The negative impact on SARS;
  • The seriousness of the issue; and
  • The number of taxpayers affected.

After assessing these factors, the OTO then makes a formal recommendation to the Minister. 

Open systemic issues
Submitting new systemic issues

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