With a target of R1.345 trillion to reach in this financial year, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) – despite taking flak from affected individuals – is forging ahead with its naming and shaming campaign of people convicted for failure to submit tax returns.
The campaign has seen names of high-profile South Africans, including former Bafana Bafana midfield player Teko Modise – convicted and sentenced in April – being made public.
Also listed are Farhad Ebrahim Limalia, Pieter Yzelle Morrison, Kevin Benjamin Steele and many others.
While the receiver’s detractors view its latest drive as infringing on privacy and confidentiality, spokesperson Janine Mqulwana was adamant yesterday that public disclosures were “perfectly within the law”.
Asked why the receiver of revenue has taken an unprecedented move to name and shame the individuals whose tax affairs are not in order, Mqulwana said the step was “not just within the South African law but in line with globally acceptable standards”.
“Other countries approach such matters harsher than us,” she said, adding “our law enforcement approach is coupled with increased public tax education to ensure that people know what is required of them.
“This is a clear demonstration that we have changed gear. In the past, we would look at the fact that you have failed to meet your obligations by complying, and leave it there.
“Now we want to remind all of our taxpayers to respond quickly to our letters and other forms of reminders, which often get ignored.
“The campaign has been well received because people have been waiting for Sars to show teeth.”
Coming out in support of the receiver’s stance, Wits University professor of ethics Brian Penrose said: “If people have actually been convicted for failing to submit returns, which is illegal, it is hard to see how naming them would be any more of a defamation of character than publicising the names of those convicted of other offences, which, rightly or wrongly, is standard practice in both print and electronic media.”
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