JOHANNESBURG - SARS is adamant it has not deliberately withheld tax refunds, despite the Tax Ombudsman finding that there were cases that strongly suggest such payments had been purposefully put on ice.
Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says Ombud Judge Bernard Ngoepe’s report confirms previous Treasury suspicions that tax refunds were manipulated.
But SARS executive Mark Kingon told eNCA that, while the tax authority has made mistakes in its handling of refunds, it has never deliberately withheld justified refunds.
He insisted that SARS refund strategies were driven by a desire to deal with rampant tax fraud and not to withhold refunds that were legally due to taxpayers.
“I can categorically state that I am not aware that there is any deliberate withholding of any refunds within our organisation. That somebody has woken up in the morning to say, 'Guys, we aren’t going to pay refunds for whatever reason. We don’t do that.”
Kingon said the 12 refund complaints identified by Ngoepe were being addressed and should be resolved by June next year.
Gordhan said: “The Tax Ombud, Judge Ngoepe, has already found that tax refunds have been manipulated, a thing that we have been saying for the past couple of years, and we were given very cheeky answers at that point. Now it’s an appropriately ascertained fact that those things were happening, and the public keeps complaining, and these are issues that are easy to resolve”
Kingon was named in Jacques Pauw’s book “The President’s Keepers” as the official who accompanied then Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay when he allegedly met President Jacob Zuma to beg him to hand over his outstanding tax returns.
He would not speak about the book.
Asked what he would say to citizens who now question the legitimacy of the revenue service after the book's revelations, Kingon said: “I would urge you to and take a drive into our communities and see the difference our tax is making. That's really what I’d like to do, take you to an orphanage where kids have food on their table because of the taxes that we pay.”
President Jacob Zuma is expected to announce the terms of reference for the Sars inquiry – and the judge who will head it – in the coming weeks.