PROFILE: Mark Kingon — the man who is excited about taxes
The man tasked with holding the fort at the revenue service is a dyed-in-the-wool stickler for the rules, and has given his life to the tax-collecting profession
For 34 years, Mark Kingon has been part of the furniture at the SA Revenue Service (Sars). Now he will take the helm at the tax collector — at least until President Cyril Ramaphosa appoints a new commissioner in the coming weeks.
Seated in a boardroom at the Sars head office in Pretoria, Kingon is jovial. Despite the whirlwind of his appointment, he is eager to ensure Sars has a good story to tell.
Two weeks ago, Ramaphosa announced the suspension of commissioner Tom Moyane, who has been surrounded by controversy. In a scathing letter, he said he had "lost confidence in [Moyane’s] ability to lead Sars".
According to the Sars Act, Kingon can stay in the position for only 90 days but he’s clearly aiming to please, particularly with the task of announcing whether Sars has met its revenue targets. The tax collector’s revenue shortfall was an eyewatering R48bn in the past financial year.
"I really want to be transparent. I don’t want to hide things. Let’s focus on our mandate of revenue collection. Let’s not deal with the peripheral issues that are out there," he says, adding: "All I do is what’s right."
Undoubtedly more experienced in the field than Moyane, Kingon is passionate about tax, and gets a twinkle in his eye as he details how he’s seen the organisation grow in the past decade.
"What an opportunity it’s been. If I were to bring you a tax law from 1997 to today, you would see how the complexity of our law has grown. To be part of that has been wonderful," he says.
Kingon comes across as a bureaucrat and is certainly a stickler for the rules, but after slowly climbing the ranks in the institution, he has had two big promotions in just six days.
He has been with Sars since its inception in 1997 and before that with the then tax-collecting agency, the Receiver of Revenue. In March, he was appointed acting chief officer of business & individual tax following the resignation of Jonas Makwakwa. Before that leg-up, he was group executive for relationship management in the same division. Now he is the acting commissioner.
In his time at the revenue service, Kingon has overseen the implementation of capital gains tax, tax deductions stretching beyond educational institutions to benefit charities and the introduction of dedicated units doing forensic audits.
Kingon also gained attention last year when he was named in Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers. It said he was tasked with convincing then president Jacob Zuma to file his tax returns.
It has been estimated that Zuma may owe up to R64m on tax penalties alone for the upgrades to his private homestead, Nkandla, which count as fringe benefits.
But Kingon says: "That’s internal and relates to the taxpayer. I hold dear to the law and my mandate and I don’t speak about taxpayer affairs. No-one spoke to me about that book. I woke up on a Sunday morning with people contacting me [about it]."
With the backing of tax practitioners and the finance minister, Kingon may just be the right man for the job — and he will certainly do his best, at least for the rest of his 90 days, to prove that.