SARS appoints Eskom exec to head up high-net-worth tax unit

Natasha Singh.
Natasha Singh.

Former Eskom executive Natasha Singh has been appointed to head up the South African Revenue Service's (SARS) wealthy taxpayers unit, which the tax agency established to take a closer look at the country's most affluent.

Singh, a chartered accountant with some 20 years' experience, will join SARS as the first director of its High Net Worth Individuals unit. She is moving from Eskom, where she was finance executive: group insurance and tax.

She holds a master's degree specialising in taxation.

In a statement issued on Monday, SARS described her appointment as being of "strategic importance".

"Her appointment is most opportune, as it coincides with a number of recent reports that affect this important segment of taxpayers, including the recently released Pandora Papers," it said.

SARS – which faced several years of shortfalls and has been on a drive to crack down on tax dodgers – established its High Net Worth Individual unit in a bid to bring in more revenue from wealthy taxpayers. However, the tax agency appeared to have taken a cautious approach, describing the unit as one offering personalised service, similar to a private banking relationship, rather than a move to target the rich.

The unit, which has seen its capacity expanded since inception, assigns a dedicated relationship manager to oversee the profile of each high-net-worth individual in its sights.  

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the tax agency acknowledged possible "challenges" in collecting revenue from the high-net-worth segment. "We recognise the revenue contribution from this segment, in its various forms, to the Republic of South Africa. We also acknowledge the likely challenges that may arise, or currently exist with regards to the tax affairs and tax obligations of individuals and their families.

"Wealthy individuals tend to arrange their financial affairs in complex on- and off-shore structures, often masking their direct beneficial ownership and true income," he said.

Around 4 000 of South Africa's super-rich have left the country over the past decade, with 500 of these exiting in 2019, Fin24 previously reported. 

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