SARS’s disclosure programme: the figures

2011-03-19 00:00

SO far over 1 000 taxpayers have applied for the South African Revenue Service’s (SARS) Voluntary Disclosure Programme (VDP), hoping to avoid steep penalties, interest or prosecution.

By March 14, SARS had received 1 694 applications, says Adrian Lackay, spokesperson for SARS.

The Tax VDP allows miscreants to come clean over their tax affairs, while the Excon VDP allows people to come clean on exchange-control transgressions. The figure given above is just for tax miscreants.

One of the attractions, says Colin Wolfsohn, a member of Saica’s National Tax Committee, to the Tax VDP is that SARS allows taxpayers whose transgressions it is aware of to apply for the programme.

Asked what kind of response SARS is hoping for, Lackay said: “A short answer would be similar to the question of how long is a piece of string. Indications are that the programme is viewed positively by those who have a need for it, and we expect the number of applications to increase as we draw closer the end of the VDP period.”

Lackay says SARS is pleased with the response so far. “SARS welcomes the applications to date by those who seek to regularise their affairs.The programme is viewed positively by those who have a need for it, and we expect the number of applications to increase as we draw closer to the end of the period.”

The programme kicked off on November 1, 2010, and is due to end on October 31.

What has, however, caused confusion is who VDP applies to, says Wolfsohn, as both SARS and the Reserve Bank are offering it.

Lackay believes this has not caused confusion.

“The Tax VDP covers all taxes administered by SARS, not only income tax. SARS administers the Tax VDP and the SA Reserve Bank [SARB] (Financial Surveillance Department) administers the Excon VDP. There will be close co-operation and exchange of information between SARS and SARB; however, applications for the Tax VDP are submitted to SARS independently of applications for the Excon VDP which should be submitted to the SARB.”

To apply for the Tax VDP Lackay says: “There is a comprehensive Q&A on the SARS website with the details of the VDP process. All applications (named and anonymous) should be completed on the prescribed VDP01 application form. The forms for ‘named applicants’ can be completed via e-Filing on the applicant’s e-Filing profile, by obtaining a form from your nearest SARS branch office, or by phoning the SARS National Contact Centre. Anonymous and named applications can be done by tax practitioners by logging on to their tax practitioner’s homepage. Applicants who wish not to apply through a tax practitioner will have to obtain the application form from their nearest branch office. All application forms require the completion of certain mandatory fields before the form can be printed and submitted.”

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