SARS Tax black hole

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter, pictured in early 2020 – Image via: Freddy Mavunda / Gallo

SARS to appeal High Court decision and hang onto Zuma tax records for now

‘The public can be assured that SARS will defend the principle of confidentiality on behalf of every single taxpayer,’ said Edward Kieswetter.

SARS Tax black hole

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter, pictured in early 2020 – Image via: Freddy Mavunda / Gallo

The Pretoria High Court ordered the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to hand former President Jacob Zuma’s tax records to two media publications within 10 days on 16 November. SARS announced its intent to appeal the decision on Wednesday, 1 December.

READ: SARS forced to hand over Zuma tax records within 10 days

SARS APPEALS DECISION

Edward Kieswetter, the Commissioner of SARS, agreed that the revenue service should apply for leave to appeal the Pretoria High Court judgement after receiving “carefully considered” legal advice and recommendations from the relevant SARS governance committee.

Investigative non-profit amaBhungane and the Financial Mail first attempted to access the former president’s tax records – for the period 2010 to 2018 – with a PAIA application in 2019.

The Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) excludes tax information from its public interest considerations and both the initial application and the subsequent application were rejected by SARS.

In November, the High Court found that provisions of PAIA and the Tax Administration Act (TAA) were unconstitutional because it provides blanket protection to persons even when the disclosure of tax records is in the public interest.

The invalidity of the relevant provisions was suspended for two years pending the correction of the Constitution and the matter was referred to the Constitutional Court for confirmation.

Zuma allegedly evaded tax payments and received income from undisclosed sources during his term in office, hence the application.

“More important than getting access to Zuma’s tax records is the advance in transparency. The absolute bar on taxpayer secrecy is dead. In exceptional cases, Paia’s public interest override will kick in,” said amaBhungane’s Stefaans Brummer in November.

SARS is appealing the order and opposing the confirmation by the ConCourt. The revenue service says the judgement – as it stands – would undermine the sacrosanct principle of taxpayer confidentiality, which is vital to the work of SARS and other international revenue authorities.

“The public can be assured that SARS will defend the principle of confidentiality on behalf of every single taxpayer. Every taxpayer is equal before the law, and we will apply the laws relevant to SARS without fear, favour or prejudice,” said Kieswetter.