SARS to be given right to search without warrant

The Tax Administration Act tabled as a Bill in Parliament a few months ago and subject to public hearings has been promulgated  and which will allow the SA Revenue Service (SARS) to search business premises without a warrant in terms of new regulations to be issued.

The law is expected to come into operation within a few months once President Zuma has given signature to the document.      New proposals in the act focus on a single registration process “to reduce red-tape” and the principle of self-assessment of taxes to avoid waiting for a SARS assessment.

SARS says it will also “pre-populate” its assessment forms with certain given and known information of the individual to ease filling in forms. A statement issued said that in future it will provide “clearer rules on access to its information systems so that tax liabilities can be determined more quickly and accurately.”

During presentations on the Bill in its passage through Parliament, SARS said the new Act was intended to simplify and provide greater coherence in South African tax administration law and that the new law “eliminated duplication, removed redundant requirements and aligned existing disparate requirements in different tax acts” going back over the years.

On the Act’s provisions to allow searching of premises SARS said in the same statement, “SARS is duty-bound to actively pursue tax evaders in order to maintain compliant taxpayers’ confidence in the integrity of the tax system.”

In line with this expectation, SARS said such an ability to search business premises without a warrant would be “in narrowly-defined situations, where the general requirement for a warrant would defeat the object of the search”.    SARS said it would then be able to act immediately when tax is at serious risk and time is of the essence”.

The new law also provides for an independent tax Ombud as promised in the state of nation address this year, “to provide taxpayers with a low-cost mechanism to address administrative issues that cannot be resolved through SARS’s normal channels.”

SARS adds that the new law will give clearer “requirements and timelines for issuing tax clearance certificates to provide greater certainty and responsiveness to business.”

Also there will be feedback systems to “engage more fully with taxpayers and to ensure the public understands the reasons for adjustments.”


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