'I will not tolerate any political interference': Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter
SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter has pledged to resign from his position rather that allow political interference in the affairs of the tax revenue service.
Kieswetter made the undertaking in parliament on Wednesday at a standing committee on finance meeting where he presented the Sars annual performance plan for 2021/2022.
DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis had challenged Kieswetter at the meeting to assure the public that Sars would go after any employer who deducted pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) from employees but failed to pay it over to the taxman — a criminal offence in terms of the Income Tax Act.
Hill-Lewis did not mention the ANC directly, but his questions to Kieswetter were in clear reference to a weekend report by the Sunday Times revealing that Sars had garnisheed the ANC funding from the IEC to the tune of R17m due to an outstanding tax bill related to PAYE.
The ANC was struggling to pay staff salaries.
The Sunday Times reported that the governing party faced an R80m tax bill after deducting PAYE from employees but failing to pay it on to Sars over several years.
Kieswetter told MPs that under his watch, Sars would go after those who owed money and violated tax laws “without any fear or favour”, regardless of their standing in society as individuals or institutions.
“I can give the assurance to the members of this committee, but also to the public, that certainly in my tenure as commissioner of Sars, I have had no political interference from any of the political parties or political leaders,” said the tax chief.
If our case selection methodology places you on our radar, then ... we will hold you accountable for the tax obligations that you owe to this country.Edward Kieswetter
“I can also give the assurance that I will not tolerate any political interference. I would sooner resign than comply to any political request. I hold the fact that Sars has to be independent and administer laws professionally but also without fear or favour or prejudice. I hold that very dear and will seek to honour that.
“I am very clear that if any of the Sars staff members allow themselves to be co-opted and choose to collude within Sars, that's a red-card offence and we will not tolerate that.”
Kieswetter, who also was careful not to mention the ANC tax matter directly, said the Sars “case selection methodology is politically neutral”, that it evaluated compliance risks and profiled taxpayers with “no cherry picking.”
“If through that process, a taxpayer, whether individual or a company or an entity, regardless of your status in society, if our case selection methodology places you on our radar, then we will engage with such a taxpayer and we will seek to enforce our law and we will hold you accountable for the tax obligations that you owe to this country.
“And I say that with the greatest humility but also with clarity of conference that that's how we seek to do our work.”
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