Taxman's grip is tightened
LEGISLATION allowing the SA Revenue Service (Sars) to search business premises without a warrant is expected to come into operation within the next three months.
The Tax Administration Bill was promulgated into law on Wednesday in the Government Gazette, Sars said in a statement.
The act would come into operation on a date to be determined by President Jacob Zuma by proclamation in the gazette.
"Sars's preparations for the implementation of the act are at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that it will come into operation within the next three months," the statement said.
The act was intended to simplify and provide greater coherence in South African tax administration law.
It eliminated duplication, removed redundant requirements and aligned existing disparate requirements in different tax acts ranging in age from four to 63 years old.
It created a single, modern framework for the common administrative provisions of the tax acts.
"Most taxpayers are compliant, and the act should ensure better service and a lower compliance cost for them," Sars said.
"Sars is, however, duty-bound to actively pursue tax evaders in order to maintain compliant taxpayers' confidence in the integrity of the tax system."
Key features include:
- A move to a single registration process and number across taxes to reduce red-tape and streamline the system, and self-assessment of taxes so taxpayers need not wait for a Sars assessment;
- Greater access to third party data to underpin Sars initiatives;
- Clearer rules on Sars access to information;
- The ability to search business premises without a warrant in narrowly-defined situations, where the general requirement for a warrant will defeat the objective of the search, so Sars can act when tax is at serious risk and time is of the essence;
- Clear requirements and timelines for issuing tax clearance certificates to provide greater certainty and responsiveness to business;
- Feedback on audit progress and findings to engage more fully with taxpayers and ensure they understand the reasons for any adjustments;
- Specific timeframes for decisions of the Tax Board (a "small claims court" for tax) and wider reporting of Tax Court decisions to improve access to justice; and
- The appointment of a Tax Ombud.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced in his 2012 Budget speech that the ombud would be appointed this year.