JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The government wants to add a “stealth tax” to traffic fines, which will see an additional R100 penalty levy added on to each traffic fine issued, regardless of the value of the fine or its associated demerit points.
The levy is included in draft regulations for the amended Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offenses (Aarto) Act and has been dubbed the Infringement Penalty Levy.
The Aarto Act sets out the establishment of the demerit system which will see traffic offenders accumulating penalty points, together with a fine, for infringements.
Commentators have said the Infringement Penalty Levy appeared to be aimed at collecting as much money as possible from motorists.
The Automobile Association (AA) have interpreted the draft regulation to mean that if a motorist receives a R200 or R2000 fine, an additional R100 must be added for the levy, which amounts to a tax for actually receiving the fine.
“A good analogy would be to consider Sars charging every taxpayer a fee for submitting their tax returns. It’s an unacceptable fee and, in the case of minor infringements, may nearly double the fine payable,” the AA said.
The association said that assuming that 20million infringement notices were issued annually, this would amount to a R2billion windfall for the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offenses (Aarto) , with a single line of legislation.
The draft regulations were issued on October 11, and the public has 30 days to comment.
The AA and Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) are now in the process of assessing the draft regulations and intend submitting a detailed comment to government ahead of the November 10 deadline.
It was also not made clear where the R100 levy would go.
Apart from this additional fee, fears have been raised that the “technically complicated” revised Aarto regulations would create a bureaucratic tangle and would likely leave motorists frustrated and defiant.
The association said it was unconscionable that private motorists must pay up to R240 simply to enquire about the status of their demerit points, and noted with concern that the enquiry fees for companies could run into thousands of rand.
“One would expect that an easy online system (unlike the current system used for licence renewals) would be made available to all motorists for demerit point checks to be made. Sadly, no provision is made for online enquiries within Aarto’s draft regulations, meaning the system is complicated and cumbersome,” notes the association.
The AA said that on further review of the draft regulations, it remained convinced that it was geared more towards revenue collection than actually dealing effectively with road deaths or creating a safer driving environment in South Africa.
Another area of concern was that a number of provisions remained unclear, and created a level of bureaucracy that would ultimately cripple the system. It said the Appeals Tribunal was a good example of creating a system that would not cope with the demands placed on it.
In terms of the draft regulations, the Appeals Tribunal consists of nine members who must decide each appeal by a vote. These decisions may not be delegated to appointed staff, which means the Tribunal has a very limited capacity, the AA said, adding that it was “doomed to become a bottleneck of bureaucracy”.
Outa’s chief legal officer, advocate Stefanie Fick, agreed that this would be an administrative nightmare for both motorists accused of infringements and officials who must implement the regulations.
She said the administrative system would be difficult for many motorists to navigate and it relied on “competent, efficient and honest officials, who can process the red tape and refuse bribes from motorists desperate to hold on to their licences”.
Apart from that, Outa noted that the process from receiving an infringement notice to challenging it successfully was “so convoluted” that they expected most who received notices to give up.
“There’s a big push to make money in this system, by bullying those served with infringement notices or summonses to just pay up immediately and shut up,” Fick said.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has already begun the process of setting up the Road Traffic Infringement Agency.
He published a notice inviting comments by not later than this month, on the names of nine people who have been nominated to serve on the body.
RTIA spokesperson Monde Mkalipi did not comment on what the levy was for and where the collected funds would go but, instead called on people to refrain from speculating.
He said the public should make their submissions on the regulations.
“We are still in the process of developing the regulations and when that is complete it will be detailed. We welcome robust conversation and are calling on South Africans to make their submissions,” Mkalipi said.
Aarto is expected to be in effect from June 2020.
You can visit the RTIA website, http://www.rtia.co.za, to study the draft regulations. All objections, inputs or comments should be emailed to RTIA’s advocate Qacha Moletsane on Qacha.firstname.lastname@example.org or the Department of Transport’s advocate Ngwako Thoka on email@example.com