SARS’ New Service Charter – A Positive Step

In rebuilding SARS as a world class institution and in positively re-engaging with taxpayers, management has just released a new Service Charter to replace the old Client Charter.

We discuss the highlights of the new Charter, the undertakings now given to taxpayers, and what is expected of taxpayers in return.

Of particular interest perhaps are the various time limits that SARS will now “endeavour” to comply with for services such as new registrations, assessments, payment of refunds, providing reasons for queried assessments and considering objections.

New management at SARS is trying to rebuild the institution as the world class organisation it once was.

Amongst the outcomes it hopes to achieve in this tax year are increases:

  • In public trust and credibility,
  • In the ease and fairness for taxpayers in their interactions with SARS.

To achieve these goals, SARS has just released a new Service Charter.

Highlights of the Service Charter

The 2018 “Service Charter” replaces the 2007 “Client Charter” which was taken off SARS’ website in 2012.

The new Charter starts well by undertaking to be fair and honest with taxpayers, to be courteous, to respect taxpayers’ privacy and to allow taxpayers mechanisms to understand and appeal assessments.

In turn, taxpayers need to be timeous and honest in their dealings with SARS,   pay all taxes owed, ensure SARS has your correct information, not be involved in or encourage corruption and encourage others to pay their tax.

So far, so good but when it comes to actual interaction between SARS and taxpayers, the word “endeavour” becomes prevalent. For example, SARS will “endeavour” to:

  • In peak hours, answer your call within four minutes.
  • Complete registrations within two working days (if all the registration conditions have been met).
  • Assess eFiled returns within five business days.
  • Pay refunds within seven business days of the assessment being finalised, subject to:
    • Nothing else being owed to SARS,
    • All SARS’ processes having been completed, and
    • No additional verification or audit is taking place.

 Customs and Excise refunds are to be paid within thirty business days.

  • Provide reasons for a queried assessment within forty five business days and consider objections within sixty business days.

In general, at least this should be considered a promising step by SARS to positively re-engage with taxpayers.

What about a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

There has also been an ongoing debate over a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR). The Davis Tax Committee has advocated for this, arguing that the relationship between SARS and citizens is fundamental to the social contract between the people and the government. TBORs are considered as being part of international best practice, so let’s see what develops.