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Tax dodgers in state's sights

Feb 22 2012 16:12 Sapa

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Cape Town - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said revenue authorities will redouble their efforts to catch tax dodgers.

Tabling his 2012/13 budget in the National Assembly on Wednesday, he said the reason government was able to propose further tax relief this year was partly due to millions of South Africans having paid their taxes and duties in full and on time.

The recent Voluntary Disclosure Programme had attracted about 18 000 applications, and yielded almost R1bn in additional tax.

"It has also provided useful insights into areas of non-compliance that will receive focused attention," he said.

These areas included under-declaration of income, such as rental and foreign income and capital gains; claiming excessive income deductions; under-declaration of VAT outputs, and inflating of VAT inputs; abuse of share incentive schemes by corporate executive; abuse of benefits granted to foreign persons employed in South Africa; and non-payment of PAYE and failure to submit PAYE returns by employers.

Poor tax compliance was also apparent in respect of trusts and in parts of the construction sector, and the role of tax practitioners and other intermediaries would come under scrutiny.

Analysis of compliance among the country's 34 000 tax advisers showed practitioners owed over R260m in outstanding taxes, and had more than 18 000 income tax returns outstanding in their personal capacity.

"If that is their attitude to their own tax compliance, one shudders to think what advice they are giving to their clients," Gordhan said.

Within the trade environment, customs officials would continue to focus attention on under-valuation of imports, especially in textiles, using a reference price database that industry was helping to update.

During the current financial year, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) had already confiscated 3.4 million articles of clothing and footwear valued at almost R580m.

In addition, Sars had seized drugs worth R139m as well as 683 million cigarettes, valued at R180m.

Since April last year, over 230 taxpayers had been successfully prosecuted for a range of tax-related offences, resulting in sentences totalling 370 years and nearly R5m in fines.

A further 1500 tax-related cases were awaiting prosecution with the National Prosecution Authority.

During the same period, Sars had issued over 700 000 taxpayers with administrative penalties for failing to submit an income tax return on time, as required.

These and other measures had helped increase the proportion of on-time submissions.

Sars received almost 5 million returns during the most recent tax season - a 23% increase over the year before.

This year, a dedicated ombud would be established for tax matters.

The office was intended to provide taxpayers with a low-cost mechanism to sort out administrative difficulties that could not be resolved by Sars, Gordhan said.
pravin gordhan  |  taxes  |  budget 2012
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