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The South African Revenue Service (SARS) was sitting on R20bn in value-added tax (VAT) refunds that were claimed but not paid out by the end of February, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Thursday. Taxpayers are complaining that they are not getting their tax refunds paid timeously. The figure provided by Gordhan suggests there might be some substance to their complaints and also gives an idea of the extent of the problem. The information from Gordhan was contained in his written reply to a parliamentary question by DA deputy finance spokesman Alf Lees. It came a few days after the announcement that Tax Ombud Judge Bernard Ngoepe had been given the go-ahead by the finance ministry to conduct a systemic investigation of tax refunds by SARS. The ombud has been inundated with complaints about SARS’s delays in paying refunds. Allegations have been made that the tax authority has withheld tax refunds to boost its tax revenue collection performance. SARS has strongly denied these al...

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