If you received an assessment or a decision from SARS that you do not agree with and submitted an objection or appeal (dispute), there would most likely be a delay in SARS attending to your (dispute) due to the lockdown period.
The current state across the globe has negatively impacted economies all over the world that includes the efficient managing of tax authorities. SARS unfortunately has not escaped this impact. Certain of SARS’ divisions have been affected more than others. The lockdown’s inadvertent consequences were that a significant amount of SARS’s resources were also confined to their homes and could not perform their duties optimally.
Taxpayers who proceeded to submit a dispute resolution process should expect delays during this lockdown. Even as the lockdown period comes to an end, there is no guarantee that taxpayers’ matters will be expediently finalised. It is likely that the effects of backlogs caused by SARS’ reduced capabilities during the lockdown will affect turnaround times post-lockdown.
It is clearly tough times for businesses as they continue to face instabilities and uncertainties due to this pandemic. Taxpayers are also affected by delays due to staff being locked down. Therefore, this dispensation allowing SARS extension to deal with disputes is also applicable to taxpayers.
There is also a silver lining for those taxpayers in that where taxpayers wish to lodge new disputes, the extended timeframes also apply and the lockdown period in which to submit a dispute is also extended. Taxpayers may therefore lodge their disputes after the lockdown without fear of missing the deadline.
This also applies to taxpayers required to submit relevant material in respect of being selected for an audit. Taxpayers generally also have 21 business days to respond to SARS in writing after receiving a request to submit information. This period would also be extended by the lockdown period. Taxpayers must however ensure that they comply by submitting the relevant material for an audit in time to eliminate the likelihood of SARS raising an additional assessment.
It is accordingly imperative that taxpayers are knowledgeable of the rules surrounding disputes to prevent further delays in receiving an outcome from SARS.
The general rules
The Tax Administration Act, 2011 (“TAA”) clearly provides for the rights and responsibilities of the South African Revenue Service (“SARS”) and taxpayers with regard to the administration of all South African taxes administered by SARS. Most taxpayers aggrieved with SARS will find the contents of Chapter 9 of the TAA read together with the rules promulgated under section 103 (“Dispute Rules”) of particular importance. These Dispute Rules prescribe the manner and form in which a taxpayer may dispute a decision taken by SARS or the raising of an additional tax assessment. The Dispute Rules also set out the timeframes under which such disputes may be lodged by the taxpayer as well as certain response times applicable to SARS.
Rule 6 provides taxpayers the opportunity to request SARS’ reasons for raising an assessment within 30 days from the date of such assessment. It is always advisable for taxpayers to request the reasons where SARS has not provided clear reasons in the notice of assessment.
Rule 7 states that the taxpayer must lodge an objection within 30 business days of the date of assessment or, where the taxpayer requested reasons, within 30 business days of receipt of SARS’ response.
Under normal circumstances SARS has 60 business days to analyze the taxpayer’s objection and notify the taxpayer if the objection has been allowed. If SARS has requested additional supporting documents for the objection, SARS has 45 days from delivering that request to notify the taxpayer on the outcome of the objection. It is therefore essential that the objection is accompanied with all the relevant supporting documentation in order to expedite the process.
In the case that SARS disallows a taxpayer’s objection the taxpayer can lodge an appeal and, must deliver a notice of appeal within 30 days after SARS has delivered the notice of disallowance of the objection. The taxpayer must indicate the wish to take part in the alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) when filling the appeal and SARS will inform the taxpayer within 30 business days of the notice of appeal whether the matter is suitable for an ADR process.
ADR is a form of dispute resolution other than litigation, or adjudication through the courts. It is less formal, much less complicated and much less adversarial and a lower cost and less onerous process of resolving a dispute with SARS.
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