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Warning: Before you hand in your tax return make sure your tax practitioner is registered

by , 04 July 2013
The 2013 tax-filing season for individual tax payers is well underway having officially kicked off on Monday. If there's one thing SARS has made clear, it's that it won't tolerate non-compliance. And if you're using a tax practitioner to handle your affairs, you'll be held personally liable if SARS finds he's not registered with the relevant authorities!

In terms of the Tax Administration Act, tax practitioners must register with SARS to be compliant. This means your tax practitioners must be a member of a SARS-recognised controlling body.

Some of the recognised bodies include the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), the Institute of Accounting and Commerce (IAC), the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT).

Here's why you must ensure your tax practitioner registered

What's worrying, however, is that while tax practitioners represent about 25% to 30% of the South African tax base, approximately 50% of the tax practitioners on the register are non-compliant with their taxes, warns Dirk Kotze, Tax Partner at global audit, tax and advisory firm Mazars.

This means '10% to 15% of taxpayers are entrusting their tax affairs to non-compliant practitioners. If that is the case, just how compliant can those taxpayers expect their own tax affairs to be,' questions Kotze.

It's as a result of this that SARS has moved to make it a legal requirement for tax practitioners to be registered with relevant bodies. Your role is to ensure your practitioner is above board. After all, the buck stops with you. He's not the one who'll be held liable if things go wrong with your return, it's you.

How to ensure your tax your tax practitioner is above board

Kotze recommends that to avoid risks, costs and to ensure that your tax practitioner is both compliant as a taxpayer and your practitioner, request that he provides you with proof of his updated registration with a controlling body and that this information was provided to SARS by the deadline.

After all, every practitioner who provides tax advice or completes returns for the payment of a fee had to be registered with SARS as a tax practitioner by 1 July 2013 with one of the recognised controlling bodies, says SARS.

'We urge taxpayers to enquire about the registration status of their tax practitioners. If business and individual taxpayers don't do this they run the risk of, come August, finding that the practitioner they usually use is no longer allowed to operate and will then have to scramble to find a registered practitioner,' warns Faith Ngwenya, technical and standards executive at SAIPA.

In addition to ensuring that your tax practitioner is above board, SARS is also warning you to watch out for fraudsters this tax season. 'Sars will never ask taxpayers for such information [as personal, banking or tax details] in an email.'

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