AARTO amendments introduce ‘stealth taxes’ - AA

Automobile Association raises valid concerns over AARTO ‘stealth taxes’

The Automobile Association’s main concern about the AARTO system is that it’s  geared towards revenue collection and not road safety. The government is adding ‘stealth tax’ to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act with an Infringement Penalty Levy.

The AA says that 20 million infringement notices are issued annually; this would amount to a R2 billion windfall for the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA).

“With regards to the Infringement Penalty Levy, the regulations directly imply the imposition of tax. In this case, it refers to a fee payable for every infringement notice issued to motorists. 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.

“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 the minor infringements, may nearly double the fine payable,” notes the AA.

Another point that the AA has made is that it is unconscionable that private motorists must pay up to R240 to enquire as to the status of their demerit points, and noted with concern that the enquiry fees for companies run into thousands of money.

AARTO Draft regulations

Upon further review of the draft regulations, the AA says it remains convinced that they are geared more towards revenue collection than actually dealing effectively with disastrous accidents or creating a safer driving environment in South Africa.

The AA says, “One would expect that an easy online system (unlike the current system used for license renewals) be made available to all motorists for demerit points checks to be made. Sadly no provision is made for online queries within AARTO’s draft regulations, meaning the system is complicated and cumbersome.”

“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 the infringements linked to demerit points.”

A number of provisions remain unclear and creates a level of bureaucracy that may 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.

With regards to 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.

“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 affective 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. This system is doomed to become a bottleneck of bureaucracy, perhaps jeopardising the entire system,” concludes the AA.

The AA will deliver a formal submission on behalf of its members relating to the amendments to the relevant authorities ahead of the November 10 deadline.