What can I do if SARS doesn’t pay my refund?

Many taxpayers have complained that SARS has not given them back their refunds. As a result the Tax Ombud, which was created back in 2014, is getting involved to sort the mess out, finds Angelique Ruzicka.

Earlier this month, SARS spoke to our sister website Justmoney and said that it had noted the complaints and frustration of taxpayers about outstanding refunds, particularly pertaining to Value Added Tax (VAT). “We also noted that taxpayers may perceive this as a lack of concern, care and efficiency by SARS.”

However, it pointed out that by 31 January 2017, SARS paid refunds totalling R155.4 billion versus the same period last year of R142.8 billion. This is R12.6 billion (9%) more than the previous year.

SARS also pointed out that it has increased its efforts to combat fraud and that it has resulted in it tightening its risk rules. “To date, SARS has prevented R23.8 billion in fraudulent refunds from being paid and hence the additional scrutiny applied to high risk cases. For example, in December the last member of a 16-member syndicate that defrauded SARS of approximately R26 million over a period of seven years was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. These cases allow SARS to review its systems and risk rules and to tighten its controls where necessary,” it told Justmoney.

However, not all commentators agreed that the problems with SARS’ refunds were only VAT related. “These delays are across the board and include VAT, Income Tax, Employee Tax Incentives and Diesel refunds which are causing considerable financial distress to businesses, especially small businesses,” said Alf Lees, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance, in a statement.

In addition, the CEO of the Office of the Tax Ombud advocate Eric Mkhawane told Justmoney that during the course of this financial year the ombudsman has received about 4000 complaints, and that 50% of these were relating to the delayed payment of tax refunds and even corporates have lodged complaints

An ongoing problem

According to Mkhawane, since the Tax Ombud was established in 2014, the issue of refunds has come up multiple times. Until now these complaints could only be resolved on a case-by-case basis, however, this changed at the beginning of the year when new legislation was signed that allows the Tax Ombud to look beyond just an individual case

However, SARS appears to be complying with the Tax Ombud’s investigation and has set up a project team to work in conjunction to it to look into the complaints on refund delays and to identify challenges.

What can you do?

First check that everything is in order and that SARS has all the documentation that you need.

If SARS does have all the requested documentation from you, you should lodge a complaint in writing. Call them too to back up your email and ask for a case number.

Once you’ve exhausted all the options with SARS, its operational service escalations and support divisions, you can obtain a complaints form from the Tax Ombud and lay a complaint. Alternatively, call the Tax Ombud’s office on 0800 662 837 or email them complaints@taxombud.gov.za or. You can also fax your complaints form to 012 452 5013. If you need to talk to someone face to face you can visit them during office hours (7; 30am till 4; 30pm). According to the Tax Ombud’s website they will endeavour to resolve the complaint within 15 working days of submission to SARS. They will contact you if they need more time to resolve the issue.

Further reading: 
SARS responds to questions on refunds

Complaints over SARS’ delayed refund payments

Tips for a painless tax season

Filling in your income tax return at the last minute

Submit your tax return to avoid harsh penalties