Bernard Ngoepe. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Bernard Ngoepe. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has given tax ombud Bernard Ngoepe the go-ahead to conduct a systemic investigation into the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the tax agency confirmed on Monday.

“SARS would like to place on record its full support of the investigation by the tax ombud. Given the recent narrative about the issue of refunds, we are confident that the results of this investigation will provide the South African public with the requisite confidence in SARS’s systems,” SARS spokesperson Sandile Memela said in a statement.

SARS was informed of Gordhan’s approval of Ngoepe’s request to probe the matter by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas.

Ngoepe requested approval for the probe after receiving a high number of complaints into delays by the tax agency in paying refunds to tax payers, Business Day reported last week.

 

“The Office of the Tax Ombud and the Ministry of Finance can be assured of full co-operation from SARS during the investigation. It is in the interest of SARS and the public to finally find closure and finality to this issue.”

SARS said it remained confident that its systems and processes were strong and robust. Memela said SARS was determined to ensure that its systems and processes were “simplified” to allow South Africans to meet their tax obligations.

“Much of the current taxpayer complaints pertain to VAT refunds. It must highlighted that SARS has an obligation to ensure both service and compliance, which includes complying with the legislation and ensuring that all incorrect activities are managed correctly, which could include fraud,” he said.

SARS had initially denied that there was an increase in delays paying refunds. However, it said on Monday that due to an increase in fraud, it has had to tighten its “risk rules”. It has referred 11% of its cases for a detailed audit. SARS maintained that 98.2% of its personal income tax payments were paid within 72 hours.

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