SARS monitoring your bank account

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Government Gazette no. 35090 (the Gazette), issued on the February 29 2012, has fundamentally changed the access the South African Revenue Services (Sars) has to every person’s bank account information.

The Gazette gives notice that in terms of section 69 of the Income Tax Act all “reporting institutions” are required to submit bi-annual returns directly to Sars in respect of all monies “invested with, loaned to and deposited” with the reporting institution, and in respect of interest received by or accrued to any person from the “reporting institution”. The first returns, covering the period 1 March 2012 to 31 August 2012 are required to be submitted to Sars by 31 October 2012.

Accountholders may be lulled into a false sense of security in understanding this to mean that all banks will now simply submit information of all interest paid by the bank to an accountholder directly to Sars, instead of the accountholder being required to disclose the information to Sars themselves. Further reading of the Gazette proves this understanding dangerously inadequate.

Firstly, it is important to note how widely the gazette defines a “reporting institution”. Included in the definition are, for example, all banks (including Postbank), companies listed on the JSE that issue bonds, debentures and similar financial instruments and organs of state that issue bonds (government bonds).

Secondly, that the “reporting institutions” must submit returns for both natural persons and, as per the Gazette, “other persons” which will include companies and trusts.

Thirdly, and possibly of greatest concern, is the information the Gazette dictates each return must contain. Whilst the requirements differ slightly for natural and “other” persons, the issues raised below are common to both.

The returns must disclose for all persons: identity particulars and tax reference numbers, the closing balances of the accounts at the end of the relevant six-month period, any interest amounts received or accrued by the persons from the “reporting institutions” and interestingly, monthly totals of all debits and credits to the accounts.

No clarity has been provided on the use Sars will make of this information. The information at the very least will assist Sars in identifying all persons who should be registered for Income Tax and VAT purposes and the non-disclosure of all receipts and accruals (local and foreign) by registered taxpayers when making provisional payments and submitting returns.

via Moneywebtax – Sars has more access to your bank account – Income tax.

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SARS can search without warrant

The Tax Administration Bill was promulgated yesterday in the Government Gazette. SARS expected it to come into operation in the next three months, it said. It contains a clause that permits a warrantless search.

SARS spokesman Adrian Lackay said yesterday searching without a warrant will be in “narrowly defined” situations.

“It will mostly be in cases of crime where we get to a premises and find evidence is being destroyed,” he said.

SARS got legal opinion on the constitutionality on the specific clause in the act from two senior counse ls, Gilbert Marcus and Steven Budlender, who found it to be in order.

Lackay cited an example in Durban where SARS staff had to stand by helplessly while a suspect burned documents and financial statements in the courtyard of his offices.

via Bill gives SARS more teeth – Times LIVE.

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