Sars has role in stopping crime - commissioner

2014-10-16 05:00
(File: Sars)

(File: Sars)

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Johannesburg - SA Revenue Service (Sars) customs officers have become an integral part of crime fighting in the country, commissioner Tom Moyane told delegates at the 35th Annual Crime Stoppers International Conference in Cape Town on Wednesday.

"Our customs officers are one of our country’s first lines of defence when it comes to preventing the smuggling of illegal, illicit and harmful goods across our borders," he said in a statement prepared for delivery.

"Also, in tackling tax evasion, Sars often comes across other criminal activities such as fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Indeed, we often find that syndicates active in smuggling are also involved in other illegal and illicit activities."

Moyane said that while the Sars Annual Report for the 2013/14 financial year was being presented to Parliament on Tuesday, reports came through that the Sars Customs Team at the cargo section at OR Tambo International Airport had stopped two suspicious consignments from Benin.

As the customs team began examining the consignments, their detector dogs positively identified narcotic substances.

"Upon further investigation, a total of 200 kg of crystal meth or "tik" was found hidden in vehicle prop shaft components. Valued at R59m, this was the biggest-ever seizure of crystal meth by Sars Customs at OR Tambo International," he said.

Moyane said although the organisation's mandate was to collect all revenue due to the fiscus and to facilitate legitimate trade by ensuring compliance with Tax and Customs laws, they could not turn a blind eye to the criminal activities they came across.

"We are passionate about fighting this scourge and working with our law enforcement partners in bringing criminals to book. The role of Sars in combating crime is delimited in law to enforcement actions that are aimed at fostering or promoting compliance with tax and customs law," he said.

He said Sars fulfilled the role of administrator, regulator and law enforcement agency.

‘Operating procedures’

Sars had always sought to collaborate with other state institutions without infringing on the rights of the taxpayer or eroding the legal framework that governed their work.

It had put in place a range of operational arrangements and standard operating procedures that defined how it cooperated and collaborated with the law enforcement agencies that it worked with.

"A senior Sars official, working together with a committee of legal and functional experts, has been designated to review and decide on all instances where disclosure of Sars information to law enforcement agencies may be needed, to ensure that we do not breach any taxpayer confidentiality provisions," he said.

Moyane told delegates that tax evasion impacted on the poor and the level of service that could be delivered to the public.

One of the biggest challenges with tax evasion was the tobacco industry.

"The illicit economy, especially illicit cigarettes and tobacco, continues to pose a serious threat to South Africa’s economic growth, legitimate formal businesses, financial activity and the potential growth of the tax base from which Sars collects revenue."

The loss of revenue to government could be more than R3bn per year in excise taxes and VAT.

"The revenue losses to legitimate operators in the tobacco industry is estimated at more than R2bn per annum. This is a direct threat to job creation," he added.

Read more on:    sars  |  cape town  |  crime

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