Expect delays when taking on SARS this tax season

A trend of increased delays and frustration with the South African Revenue Service’s (SARS) dispute resolution process is becoming apparent among taxpayers and tax practitioners alike.

This is according to Christopher Renwick, an attorney with Tax Consulting South Africa, who said that the reasons for the delays appear to be numerous.

“The common, albeit perhaps slightly misplaced, view is that SARS is operating unfairly, however in my experience, often the frustrations come down to taxpayers being unfamiliar with the dispute resolution process and creating their own difficulties,” he said.

“However, as experts in the field, we have experienced several SARS officials dragging their feet. This is not the case across the board – that would not be fair to say – however smoke and fire do go hand in hand.”

What should you do?

Renwick added that problem could lie in the fact that SARS presides over its own process, and that there are no cost implications for the revenue collector if your matter crawls along.

However he noted that an alternate option exists in the form of the motion court.

“The motion court is a court held at the High Court of South Africa that follows court procedure and is presided over by a High Court Judge,” he said.

“Not only does the motion court come with a highly skilled judge, but also the added benefit of expediency. Where a trial date may be 18 months after application (in the Johannesburg High Court 2 years) a ‘motion date’ may be less than 3 months from date of application.”

He added that whilst you may be left powerless under the dispute resolution process, the High Court is bestowed with inherent discretionary power to grant you any appropriate relief that will solve your problem.

“An added sweetener is the fact that SARS may have to pay your legal costs as well,” he said.

While this process sounds too good to be true, Renwick said that he had recently used this method to assist a taxpayer whose matter had been dragging for over a year.

“Leaving the finer details of the motion and its ensuing arguments aside, the taxpayer came out on top and the alternate prayer was made an order of court. This means that the taxpayer’s liability was expunged. The cherry on top was that SARS was ordered to pay the taxpayer’s costs,” he said.

“An alternative avenue for dispute resolution has presented itself to the tax paying community. Just make sure you take an attorney down the path with you.”

Read: If you own a unit trust, more taxes are coming your way

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Expect delays when taking on SARS this tax season