Cape Town - Legislation allowing the SA Revenue Service
(Sars) to search business premises without a warrant is expected to come into
operation within the next three months.
The Tax Administration Bill was promulgated into law on
Wednesday in the Government Gazette, Sars said in a statement on Thursday.
The act would come into operation on a date to be determined
by President Jacob Zuma by proclamation in the gazette.
"Sars's preparations for the implementation of the act
are at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that it will come into operation
within the next three months," it said.
The act was intended to simplify and provide greater
coherence in South African tax administration law.
It eliminated duplication, removed redundant requirements,
and aligned existing disparate requirements in different tax acts ranging in
age from four to 63 years old.
It created a single, modern framework for the common
administrative provisions of the tax acts.
"Most taxpayers are compliant, and the act should
ensure better service and a lower compliance cost for them," Sars said.
"Sars is, however, duty-bound to actively pursue tax
evaders in order to maintain compliant taxpayers' confidence in the integrity
of the tax system."
Key features of the act include:
- A move to a single registration process and number across
taxes to reduce red-tape and streamline the system, and self-assessment of
taxes so taxpayers need not wait for a Sars assessment;
- Greater access to third party data to underpin Sars
initiatives, such as the pre-population of individual tax returns;
- Clearer rules on Sars access to information, so tax
liabilities can be determined more quickly and accurately;
- The ability to search business premises without a warrant
in narrowly-defined situations, where the general requirement for a warrant
will defeat the object of the search, so Sars can act when tax is at serious
risk and time is of the essence;
- Clear requirements and timelines for issuing tax clearance
certificates to provide greater certainty and responsiveness to business;
- Feedback on audit progress and findings to engage more
fully with taxpayers and ensure they understand the reasons for any adjustments;
- Specific timeframes for decisions of the Tax Board (a
"small claims court" for tax) and wider reporting of Tax Court
decisions to improve access to justice; and
- The appointment of a Tax Ombud, informed by international
experience, to provide taxpayers with a low-cost mechanism to address
administrative issues that cannot be resolved through Sars's normal channels.
Although the act provided for a year from its commencement
for the appointment of the Tax Ombud, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced
in his 2012 Budget speech that the ombud would be appointed this year.