First tax professionals could qualify by year-end

share trends 4Author:Ing Lamprecht|

JOHANNESBURG An estimated 3 000 individuals could qualify as tax professionals in the next five years.

Last month the South African Quality Authority (Saqa) registered tax professional as an occupational qualification. Saqa is responsible for overseeing the development of the National Qualification Framework (NQF) in South Africa.

The qualification will give students specialist tax knowledge and practical experience. It was introduced following a request from the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and the South African Institute of Tax Professionals (Sait) in 2008 to the Finance, Accounting, Management Consulting and other Financial Services (Fasset) Seta for the development of a qualification in tax.

Ronel de Kock, head of education at Sait, says Fasset commissioned research into the need for and the potential uptake of a tax qualification.

The research, finalised in July 2009, confirmed that such a need existed and the process was started.

The Big Four professional services firms (PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte), medium-sized firms BDO and Moore Stephens, Sars and leading law firms assisted with the development of the qualification. Sait is its custodian.

The qualification consists of three components knowledge, practical skills and workplace experience. This follows the international standard, she says.

The knowledge component is completed through studies at a tertiary institution that is specifically accredited to offer this qualification. The practical skills component can be obtained through accredited tertiary institutions and on-the-job training. The workplace experience component (articles) is obtained in the workplace with an approved employer under the guidance of a training supervisor, she says.

An application to write the qualifying exam (National Qualifying Competency Assessment) can be made to Sait if all three components have been successfully completed, she says.

Students with a senior certificate (Grade 12) would take seven years to qualify as a tax professional. The qualification requires a three-year undergraduate degree, one-year postgraduate degree and three years of articles plus the successful completion of the qualifying exam.

De Kock says not all higher education institutions offer the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees necessary.

Universities must apply for accreditation with Sait. The Accreditation Committee will then assess the university.

While the qualification will complement the professionalisation of the tax profession, it will not be the only qualification for tax practitioners.

Following amendments to the Tax Administration Act, tax practitioners were required to register with a recognised controlling body by July 1, 2013, as well as registering with Sars.

The amendment was put in place to ensure tax practitioners were appropriately qualified and misconduct could be addressed.

Earlier this month Sars said 14 000 tax practitioners had registered. Before the amendment, there were about 34 000 tax practitioners in the country.

De Kock says is it important to remember that taxation is law.

While many leading law firms and lawyers offer taxation services, and tax professionals have traditionally trained as either accountants or lawyers, the new qualification is not in competition with the chartered accountant (CA) designation, she says.

It will provide a specific, specialist and focused way for students to qualify as tax professionals. This will be an alternative pathway to CAs or lawyers, she says.