How to Navigate SARS Tax Disputes

How to Navigate SARS Tax Disputes
SARS Tax Disputes. Image by Drazen Zigic on

Tax law involves planning and dispute resolution advice and representations in respect of the various types of tax, including income tax, value-added tax, capital gains tax, dividends withholding tax, donations tax, international tax and employees’ tax.

The importance of proactively addressing a SARS tax dispute

Addressing any South African Revenue Service (SARS) tax disputes is crucial for individuals and businesses as it ensures compliance with tax laws and regulations, thereby avoiding penalties and legal consequences. Resolving disputes promptly minimises financial strain on company resources, including additional tax liabilities and legal fees, while also safeguarding reputation by demonstrating integrity and responsibility. Moreover, prompt resolution of disputes prevents disruptions to business operations and supports long-term strategic planning. Overall,  taking proactive steps to resolve tax disputes is essential for maintaining financial stability, legal compliance, and business continuity.

What constitutes a SARS tax dispute?

According to the SARS website,  “When taxpayers are aggrieved by an assessment or not satisfied with a decision taken by SARS (and) if the decision is subject to objection and appeal, they have a right to dispute the assessment or decision. Chapter 9 of the Tax Administration Act, 2011, and the rules made under section 103 thereof (the DR rules), provide the legal framework for these disputes across all tax types found in the various tax Acts administered by SARS, excluding the customs and excise Acts.”

From a legal standpoint, a SARS tax dispute refers to any disagreement or conflict between a taxpayer and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) regarding the application, interpretation, or enforcement of tax laws and regulations. These disputes may arise from various situations, including challenges to tax assessments, disputes over the classification of income or deductions, allegations of tax evasion or non-compliance, or disagreements concerning the amount of tax owed. Resolving SARS tax disputes often involves formal procedures, such as lodging objections or appeals against SARS decisions, and may require legal representation to navigate complex tax laws and procedures effectively.

Understanding the dispute process with SARS

Navigating the dispute process with the SARS can be a complex and challenging endeavour for taxpayers. However, understanding the process and enlisting expert advice can go a long way in navigating this process successfully.

SARS has established a formal dispute resolution mechanism to address disagreements between taxpayers and the tax authority. The process is governed by the Tax Administration Act (TAA) and the rules set out in the TAA (section 103 of the Tax Administration Act, 2011).

  • Initiating a Dispute: If you disagree with a tax assessment, decision, or action taken by SARS, you can initiate a dispute by submitting a Notice of Objection to SARS. The Notice of Objection must be submitted within 30 business days from the date of the assessment or decision that you are disputing. You can submit the Notice of Objection electronically through SARS eFiling or by visiting a SARS branch office.
  • Providing Supporting Documents: Along with the Notice of Objection, you should provide all relevant supporting documents and information to substantiate your objection. This may include financial records, contracts, agreements, correspondence with SARS, and any other documentation relevant to the dispute.
  • Review by SARS: Upon receipt of the Notice of Objection, SARS will review the objection and consider the supporting documents provided. SARS may request additional information or clarification from you during the review process.
  • Dispute Resolution: If SARS upholds your objection, the dispute will be resolved in your favour, and any adjustments will be made to your tax assessment accordingly. If SARS rejects your objection, you will receive a Notice of Dispute Assessment (NODA) outlining the reasons for the rejection and the revised tax assessment. You have the right to escalate the dispute to the next level of review, which involves filing an appeal with the Tax Court or Tax Board, depending on the nature and amount of the dispute.
  • Appealing the Decision: If you are dissatisfied with SARS’ decision on your objection, you can appeal the decision to the Tax Court or Tax Board within 30 business days from the date of the NODA. The appeal process involves presenting your case before a judge or adjudicator, who will consider the evidence and arguments presented by both parties before making a decision.

Given the complexity of tax disputes and legal proceedings, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance from tax consultants, accountants, or legal advisors who specialise in tax law and dispute resolution.

Caveat Legal’s expertise in navigating these disputes

Tax law is constantly evolving due to bi-annual changes to the legislation and court judgments in relation to the legislation. As a result, individuals and businesses need specialised and ongoing tax advice. At Caveat Legal, we have specialist consultants with legal and accounting tax experience, enabling us to provide a tax service that is both legally and financially sound.

Taxpayers are also increasingly faced with audits and investigations by SARS. These queries usually lead to SARS issuing additional assessments, necessitating taxpayers to embark on the litigation process, including the submission of letters of objection or appeal, the Alternate Dispute Resolution process and, in some instances, to proceed to the courts.

Our specialists are very experienced in this area of tax law, having assisted various clients with the processes outlined above, including a matter that proceeded to the Constitutional Court.

Ensure that you have the Caveat team at your side when it comes to SARS Tax disputes. If you’re currently struggling with a Tax Dispute, or would like to find out more information, please visit us on our website: