Transfer duty system annoys conveyancers

By Roy Cokayne Time of article published Jun 24, 2011

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Roy Cokayne

The legal fraternity is becoming increasingly frustrated with functionality problems in the new property transfer duty e-filing system introduced by the SA Revenue Service (Sars) in April and Sars’ inability to resolve them.

John Christie, a member of the Law Society of SA’s property law committee, said yesterday that the system did not appear to have been designed to cope with the huge variety of transactions that conveyancers had to deal with daily.

He said apart from a few procedural problems that had been addressed, attorneys had seen very little noticeable improvement in the system since the problems were brought to Sars’s attention.

Sars group executive for business systems Mark Kingon confirmed it was dealing with challenges related to the new system “but nothing insurmountable”.

Christie said the main problems were the inordinate and unacceptable delays being encountered by conveyancers in waiting for transfer duty receipts to be issued.

“These delays are to the substantial prejudice of the parties to the transaction, the banks involved, estate agents, the conveyancing fraternity as well as the deeds registries.”

Attorneys persistently claimed call centre staff had not been trained and were unable to assist them in sorting out problems, which was possibly the single most frustrating and annoying aspect of the present system, Christie said.

Kingon said Sars was engaging in continual training of its staff to ensure that matters were dealt with correctly and to ensure that there were support staff at each branch in the major centres.

Conveyancers have complained about a number of technical issues. They include Sars’s insistence on valuations from two estate agents when previously valuations by a qualified valuer were accepted.

Online calculations on the system apparently indicated an amount payable in respect of transfer duties but this amount differed from that requested on the payment page.

Kingon did not have an answer “at this point” to the online calculation problems, but stressed if Sars became aware of any system bug, it “would be fixed overnight”.

He said Sars had moved to valuations from two estate agents at the request of conveyancers, adding that a valuer could technically charge a percentage of the value of the property as their valuation fee.

“I’m happy to have valuers over two estate agents. But if the valuation of a valuer is being rejected in place of two estate agents, I will rectify it overnight.”

Kingon added that practitioners were not always correct, the mistakes were not one-sided and the new system involved a learning process.

“We will try and improve the system and make it better.”

As it had done with personal income tax, Sars wanted to move to a risk basis with the transfer duty e-filing system where it did not check every item and asked for supporting documentation only when a query arose, he said.

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