The SA Revenue Service (Sars) has created a separate division set to deal with fallout from the commissions of inquiry into the “state capture project”.
Sars commissioner Edward Kieswetter said yesterday the new entity would work “closely” with state organs such as the National Prosecuting Authority and the Special Investigating Unit to ensure that individuals who are found to have been involved in corrupt activities face the consequence of their actions.
The division is headed by Mark Kingon, who had been acting commissioner since the ousting of Tom Moyane in November 2018.
The capture of the tax collector was laid bare before the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by Sars under retired Judge Robert Nugent and the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Announcing the 2019/20 tax filing season during a media briefing in Pretoria, Kieswetter said Sars was reassessing the “illicit economy phenomenon” to understand it better and to see how the receiver can respond to it within the mandate.
Sars won’t be “resurrecting” anything that existed, he said, referring to the investigative unit that was dismantled by Moyane, who was hard-pressed to keep the “rogue unit” narrative alive. Kieswetter said there were skilled people within Sars who were already dealing with certain sectors of the illicit economy, notably the tobacco industry and perceived abuses in the fuel industry.
He said the receiver had already “set right” the current practice in terms of refunds following accusations of favouritism during the Moyane reign.
“It must be clear to anyone within Sars that the wilful manipulation for any intent is unlawful and will be dealt with. We cannot become complicit in aiding or abetting any corrupt intent by any taxpayer or groups of taxpayers.”
Kieswetter said he had been meeting staff members since his first day at work on May 1. He said it was easy to fix systems and policies that had been “broken” but that it was more difficult to fix the spirit of people.
“Sadly, I have found that many of our staff have lost trust in the leadership – many have a broken spirit. We’ve unfortunately created a culture of fear and intimidation and racial tension is sadly high in the organisation.”
Kieswetter also announced that the income threshold for the submission of tax returns has increased to R500 000 from R350 000 and that the tax season for people filing their returns at branches starts on August 1. This leaves taxpayers three months to file and to get their supporting documents ready. The deadline for those filing at branches is October 31.
Kieswetter said they had enough information about people with simple tax affairs (“an employee with only one employer and no additional income or deductible expenses”) and they had a “sophisticated risk engine” that could detect any discrepancies in the information they had.
Dan Zulu, acting head of business and individual taxpayers, said the higher threshold would hopefully discourage people who are not required to file returns from visiting Sars branches. Last year, two million people were not obliged to file returns because they were below the R350 000 threshold.
However, 1.5 million people still came to branches to file.
Originally appeared on Moneyweb