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If all goes well, tax practitioners will soon be able to enrol for an occupational qualification in tax. There has not previously been a qualification for tax practi tioners and so, after consultation with the sector and with the assistance of the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT), Fasset (the Seta for Finance, Accounting, Management Consulting and Other Financial Services) developed this new qualification.
“On March 30, Fasset submitted the new qualification to the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and now it is just a question of waiting for the required approval and registration process to run its course,” says Fasset chief executive Cheryl James. She describes the new qualification as a “landmark”.
According to Sars, there are approximately 34 000 tax practitioners in SA, of which 50 percent do not have a tax qualification. This would explain why tax practitioners are continually in the spotlight for non-compliance.
Not one to mince his words, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan criticised tax practitioners in his Budget speech earlier this year. He alleged that they owed more than R260 million in outstanding taxes and accounted for more than 18 000 outstanding income tax returns in their personal capacity.
“One shudders to think that they (tax practitioners) offer tax advice to the public without formal training,” commented SA Institute of Tax Practitioners chief executive Stiaan Klue. “In recent years tax legislation has become very complex and the non-compliance highlighted by the minister can be directly linked to their technical ability to perform the work. We believe this new occupational qualification will address the issue of training and certification of tax practitioners.”
Pegged at NQF level 7, the new qualification is aimed at people who have an academic qualification and would like to further qualify as tax practitioners. Institutions will able to offer the qualification only once the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations has registered it. It is, however, envisioned that most universities and other accredited education providers will offer the qualification nationwide in the near future.
While various stakeholders assisted in the development of the qualification, universities played a major role. “Subsequent to the public commentary phase, Fasset facilitated a workshop with the universities to review the final qualification before the submission for registration,” says James.
The head of the Department of Taxation at the University of Pretoria, Professor Madeleine Stiglingh, welcomed the new qualification.
“We are excited about this new qualification and commend Fasset for its visionary leadership in the development thereof,” she said. “In recent years, our department of taxation has developed several formal and informal programmes to ensure that we equip prospective tax practitioners with relevant competitive tax knowledge and skills. This new professional qualification will further empower our students and will serve as a much-needed benchmark against which future employers and taxpayers could measure the quality of their staff and advisers.”
There is a demand for tax practitioners, as evidenced by Fasset research conducted in 2009. The research indicated that, “the majority (37, or 74 percent) of the 50 firms that were interviewed were of the opinion that a need exists for a learnership in taxation. When asked whether they would be willing to take on students, 29 (58 percent) of the employers said they would be willing to do so.
“These firms indicated that in total they would take on 155 students at a time. Sars also indicated that it would be able to accommodate substantial numbers of students – between 200 and 300 per year. The need for a learnership stems mainly from the ongoing development of tax as a specialised work component in many accounting and auditing firms, as well as the fact that the volume of work that needs to be covered in the accounting learnership leaves insufficient space for taxation.” (Fasset Research Report 2009: The need for a learnership in taxation. http://www.fasset.org.za/research/default.asp).
The minimum entrance requirement to enrol for the new qualification is an NQF 6 qualification in the fields of commerce, accountancy or law.