In a press release today, the South African Revenue Services (SARS) threatens to take criminal action against author Jacques Pauw and the the Sunday Times for publishing an extract from Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers.
The extract implicates that President Jacob Zuma was for a period paid R1-million a month by a security company and that he failed to submit his tax returns during at least the first five years of his presidency.
SARS, in its press release, does not pertinently deny the allegations but indicates that the information is incorrect. It also says it is concerned about the “unlawful disclosure of confidential taxpayer information” and the “unsubstantiated allegation that Commissioner Tom Moyane is aiding President Zuma to avoid his tax obligations“.
Here is the full press release:
SARS has noted the widespread media reports on the Sunday Times’ lead story, Gangster Republic (29 October) which is an extract from Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers – Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison.
SARS wishes to categorically state that it is deeply concerned about the publication of confidential taxpayer information in contravention of Chapter 6 of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) 28 of 2011, especially Section 69 which prohibits the disclosure of taxpayer information by a SARS official or former SARS official.
Further, Section 69(3) of the TAA prohibits the disclosure of confidential taxpayer information outside judicial processes and in particular an Order of the High Court.
As a result, SARS is duty-bound to address the violation of the TAA by Mr. Jacques Pauw and the unsubstantiated allegation that Commissioner Tom Moyane is aiding President Zuma to avoid his tax obligations.
The premise of the piece hinges on the predictable narrative that the organization cannot fulfil its mandate since the appointment of Commissioner Moyane because he is allegedly using his position to protect the President.
SARS views the publication of confidential taxpayer information through Mr. Pauw’s book and the Sunday Times as unlawful and a criminal offence in terms of Section 236 of the TAA.
Thus SARS is seeking legal advice on what steps to take, including but not limited to criminal and civil investigation against Mr. Pauw and the Sunday Times into the circumstances pertaining to the unlawful disclosure of confidential taxpayer information.
Furthermore, SARS is deeply concerned about the apparent bias, irresponsible and mischievous tone of the report which seeks to cast aspersions on the character of Commissioner Moyane.
The report perpetuates the unfounded narrative that he is involved in efforts to quash President Zuma’s tax liability. This narrative is untruthful, disingenuous and outrightly irresponsible.
SARS wishes to point out that the allegations pertaining to the President Zuma’s tax affairs refer to events that occurred prior to Commissioner Moyane assuming his current position. That fact alone should be more than enough to end such reckless speculation and treacherous narrative.
In addition, SARS dismisses with contempt the allegation that officials who were allegedly administering President Zuma’s tax affairs were purged from the organisation.
Another fact that proves that the book and the newspaper report are devoid of any factual substance is that all former SARS officials mentioned in the article voluntarily resigned from SARS. It must be appreciated that, as a result of the dictates of the TAA, the Commissioner is unable to address the veracity of the allegations insofar as they relate to engagement between SARS and other parties, including the President.
SARS wishes to put it on record that the Commissioner does not interfere with a taxpayer’s assessment, audit, dispute or settlement. There are governance mechanisms and control measures in place to ensure that all divisions have the necessary independence to deal with the tax affairs of any taxpayer in a manner prescribed by the relevant tax legislation without fear, favour, prejudice and any undue interference from anybody, including the Commissioner.
We reiterate that the Commissioner, along with all former and current SARS officials, is compelled to uphold the confidentiality of any taxpayer’s information, regardless of the position or status of the taxpayer.
It must be appreciated that SARS is placed in a very difficult position when factually incorrect information is published about a taxpayer, hence its intention to take action against Mr. Pauw and the paper.
SARS cannot refute such reckless reporting by publishing the correct information, for in doing so SARS would contravene the law and also breach the relationship of trust between SARS and taxpayers.
With this in mind, SARS remains resolute, focused and single-minded about meeting our revenue collection target for South Africa, revenue which our country needs for growth and development.