SARS’s voluntary disclosure programme bears fruit

THE South African Revenue Service (SARS) has so far collected R6.3bn under the special voluntary disclosure programme that was launched in 2012, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Tuesday.

The programme allows taxpayers to voluntarily disclose previously hidden income in exchange for lower penalties than would normally apply.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Floyd Shivambu, Mr Gordan said 8,401 taxpayers had made applications under the programme between 2012 and March 16 2016. Of the approved applications, 35% related to income tax, 13% to pay as you earn, 49% to value added tax (VAT) and 3% to other taxes.

The Treasury expects significantly higher amounts will accrue to the fiscus under the new tax and foreign exchange control amnesty which Mr Gordan announced in his budget in February. The six-month amnesty kicks in October.

Noncompliant taxpayers will be under pressure to regularise their tax affairs and declare their offshore assets because an automatic exchange of information between tax authorities around the world will come into force late next year. The disclosure of the foreign bank accounts in the Panama Papers project also highlights the dangers of continuing to hold these undeclared assets.

In reply to another question by Mr Shivambu regarding the departure of senior managers from SARS since September 2014, Mr Gordhan said 55 senior managers had left the tax authority since that date. Thirty-nine senior managers had voluntarily resigned, one had been suspended prior to a termination of employment, one had taken early retirement and 14 others had left for other reasons.

Mr Gordan added that 21 new top executives, senior managers and specialists had been appointed to SARS over the period.

Although the minister did not say so, much of the turnover of senior staff related to the takeover by commissioner Tom Moyane as head of the organisation. He embarked on a fundamental restructuring of the tax authority and removed several of the senior executives he inherited from his predecessor. Many of the departures were also linked to the removal of those linked to the so-called “rogue” investigating unit within SARS.



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