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The South African Revenue Service (SARS) needs all the positive publicity it can get, after its recent troubles, including infighting and the loss of key executives. Offering amnesty to South Africans who use bank accounts abroad to evade tax liabilities is not the most positive thing it could do. It’s an action euphemistically referred to as ‘voluntary disclosure’, but that is also seen in some quarters as ‘morally corrosive’. It seems even more so when according to a Sunday Times report in February, the list of evaders includes CEOs of top blue-chip companies, sports stars and a key figure in the arms deal, who can all afford the penalties they should be paying for tax evasion. But it is at least a way of getting large amounts of revenue in sooner rather than later. This News24 report looks at what it means for the tax evaders. – Marika Sboros
Cape Town – The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has identified South Africans who use bank accounts overseas to evade tax liabilities – and has given them an olive branch to come clean.
This follows media reports five months ago that revealed that South Africans held R23bn in secret Swiss bank accounts.
SARS said in a statement it has given South Africans with foreign bank accounts until 12 August 2015 to approach it via its Voluntary Disclosure Programme (VDP) to regularise their tax affairs.
The Sunday Times reported on February 9 2015 that the list of South African clients who held bank accounts with the bank in Switzerland is headlined by CEOs of top blue-chip companies, sports stars and a key figure in the arms deal.
It said it is not a crime for South Africans to have a Swiss bank account, and many of the individuals contacted on the list by the newspaper said they had disclosed full details of the accounts and paid all the tax.
It is crucial that SARS remains independent and beyond reproach, and that no one is allowed to avoid their tax obligations. @MmusiMaimane
— Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) July 9, 2015
“There were 585 South Africans on the list, who held $2.09bn in 2221 accounts,” the paper revealed.
Now, SARS is starting to crack down on the practice.
“As stated by SAR Sat the time, early indications were that some account holders may have utilised their accounts to evade their local and/or international tax obligations based on the information Sars had received,” it said.
“SARS has completed the initial phase of matching information obtained through international exchange of information procedures with the Sars taxpayer database.
“This matching confirms that some accountholders may have used their accounts to evade South African tax liabilities.
“Account holders who want to make use of the VDP programme are encouraged to submit their applications to the VDP unit on or before 12 August 2015.
“In the meantime SARS will continue analysing the data available to it, enhancing its audit capacity and will be ready to commence issuing audit notification letters from 13 August 2015.”
Detailed information about the VDP application process, as well as the penalty relief and protection against criminal prosecution provided under this Programme is available at http://www.sars.gov.za/Legal/VDP/Pages/default.aspx.
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