Often in the dispute process, vital documents cannot be accessed. For example, a request to SARS to explain an assessment (Request for Reasons) is lodged but it gets either lost or stuck in the SARS system. By the time it is located and SARS has responded to the taxpayer, the SARS system will have timed out an objection. Thus, if an objection is then received, SARS will disallow it. Similarly SARS may email a taxpayer who may be slow to respond due to circumstances such as, he/she is travelling abroad.
The 3 new eFiling upgrades
Now however welcome enhancements have been made to the eFiling system from 17 May 2017:
- The first upgrade is an automated Request for Reasons which will automatically give you thirty business days to lodge an objection once SARS has responded to the Request for Reasons.
- This facility can be used for income tax (personal and corporate) and for VAT.
- The second change is to allow VAT taxpayers to request a suspension of payment via eFiling, pending the resolution of the dispute process. Current law uses the “pay now, argue later” rule unless taxpayers can defer the payment.
- This is similar in principle to the Request for Reasons and has also been welcomed by taxpayers and tax practitioners.
- Finally, SARS has introduced on eFiling the facility to apply for late submission of a dispute – you ask for a Request for Reasons, Notice to Appeal or Notice of Objection after the period to complete these steps has lapsed. You will have to submit reasons for the lateness of your actions. SARS will then consider the reasons for the late application before considering Reason for Request etc. Tax experts have questioned how this will work as clearly the substance of your objection is crucial in deciding whether or not to allow you to enter into a dispute with SARS.
These are sensible improvements and should reduce communication failures. SARS eFiling is a central point of reference for both you as taxpayer and SARS, and having one channel of information will assist both parties.