Editorials 12.7.2018 08:50 am

More of the carrot, less of the stick, please Sars

The very small proportion of South Africans who actually pay tax are, once again, being subjected to threats and intimidation.

There can be few ordinary taxpayers – those struggling to make ends meet amid the battering of ongoing price increases and constrained wage hikes – who feel any sympathy for the high profile tax dodgers who have just been named and shamed in the latest marketing campaign by the SA Revenue Service (Sars).

Effectively, the tax collector’s office has co-opted a number of these luminaries – including Bafana Bafana midfield player Teko Modise – to act as its brand ambassadors in an effort to convince the rest of the ordinary taxpayers out there that Sars should not be ignored.

There have been those who have queried the release of the names, arguing that it is an infringement of the privacy and, indeed, the fundamental human rights of those people.

In response, Sars says it is acting within the dictates of the Tax Administration Act, which allows disclosure of taxpayer information in certain cases.

According to Sars, its “name and shame” approach is not as harsh as the methods used by other countries to bring tax evaders to book.

The organisation says, though, that the campaign signals that it has “changed gear” and will, from now on, be much more energetic in pursuing offenders and those who do not comply.

However, we can’t help but feel that the very small proportion of South Africans who actually pay tax are, once again, being subjected to threats and intimidation by an organisation which knows that it has a huge amount of revenue to collect.

There is a R50 billion hole in this revenue, thanks to previous maladministration in Sars.

In addition, it might be nice if taxpayers saw a bit more of the carrot, rather than the stick. Showing us how wisely our money is being spent might be one way of achieving that.

Oops … sorry. What were we thinking?

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