The Automobile Association (AA) says the government is adding ‘stealth tax’ to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act with the introduction of a so-called Infringement Penalty Levy, which is provided for in the recently published draft regulations for the AARTO Act.
“With regards to the Infringement Penalty Levy, the regulations directly imply the imposition of a tax. In this case, it refers to a fee payable for every infringement notice issued. On our interpretation of the draft regulation, this means an additional R100 is added to each fine issued, regardless of the value of the fine or its associated demerit points. In other words, if a motorist receives a R200 or R2000 fine, an additional R100 must be added for the Infringement Penalty Levy, which amounts to a tax for actually receiving the fine,” says the AA.
The Association says that assuming 20 million infringement notices are issued annually, this would amount to a R2-billion windfall for the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), with a single line of legislation.
“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,” notes the AA.
Apart from this fee, the Association says it is unconscionable that private motorists must pay up to R240 simply to enquire as to the status of their demerit points and noted with concern that the enquiry fees for companies run into thousands of Rands.
“One would expect that an easy online system (unlike the current system used for licence renewals) be made available to all motorists for demerit point checks to be made. Sadly, no provision is made for on-line enquiries within AARTO’s draft regulations, meaning the system is complicated and cumbersome,” notes the Association.
The AA says that upon further review of the draft regulations, it remains convinced that they are geared more towards revenue collection than actually dealing effectively with road deaths, or creating a safer driving environment in South Africa.
“A clear thread throughout the draft regulations is that of revenue collection – monies payable, fees, and penalties – with little or no regard for the actual values of infringements linked to demerit points,” it states.
Another area of concern is that a number of provisions remain unclear and create a level of bureaucracy that will ultimately cripple the system. It says the Appeals Tribunal is a good example of creating a system that will 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. This means the Tribunal has a very limited capacity.
“In 2018, a total of 133 790 representations and 286 390 elections to be heard in court were received in respect of a total of 1 607 989 infringement notices issued that year – 26 percent of all infringement notices. If only one-third of these cases reached the Appeals Tribunal, that would amount to a caseload of 140 000 cases annually, which the Appeals Tribunal cannot possibly manage. This system is doomed to become a bottleneck of bureaucracy, perhaps jeopardising the entire system,” the AA notes.
The AA says it will deliver a formal submission on behalf of its members relating to the amendments to the relevant authorities ahead of the November 10 deadline.
“Over 50 years ago, the AA called for a demerit points system to be introduced and we continue to support this notion. Based on evidence from other countries this type of legislation can be effective in making roads safer. However, the recent Amendment Act and these new draft regulations do not convince us that AARTO, in its current form, is that intended legislation,” concludes the AA.