Cape Town – Parliament needs to look at ways in which the South African Revenue Service (SARS) can be held to account without compromising taxpayers’ constitutional right to privacy, said Yunus Carrim (ANC), chairperson of the standing committee on finance.
Carrim made the comments during a quarterly report briefing in which SARS said it could not divulge any information on the alleged R70m VAT refund the Gupta family received from the taxman.
City Press earlier reported that SARS commissioner Tom Moyane was personally involved in the Guptas’ VAT refund.
During question time, Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu asked SARS to respond to allegations that Moyane had intervened when a R70m VAT refund was allegedly paid to the Gupta family.
“Why did your commissioner interfere?” he asked the tax agency.
Hlengani Mathebula, chief officer for communications, strategy and enforcement, who is acting as SARS commissioner in Moyane’s absence, maintained that in the current legislation nothing is more important than the individual.
“Until that is amended, we cannot go outside the legislation that governs us, otherwise we’ll put the organisation into disrepute. In this instance, the Constitution requires us to not disclose any matter that relates to an individual, whoever that may be.”
'Billions siphoned off from SOEs'
Shivambu protested, saying besides the R70m VAT refund, there are also allegations of billions of rand siphoned off from state-owned enterprises. “We need this information,” Shivambu said, and suggested that Parliament start conducting closed meetings to hold SARS to account for such issues.
Carrim supported Shivambu’s notion and asked Frank Jenkins, senior legal adviser in Parliament, to look into the legal processes of having closed meetings with SARS.
“These emails are so overwhelmingly pointing to irregularities, and large amounts of money were disappearing,” Carrim said in reference to the leaked Gupta emails. “The question arises: what is SARS doing about it? How can SARS not know about this? There are also allegations that you treat taxpayers differently.”
He also asked if the SARS commissioner does in fact have a mandate to intervene in VAT refunds to individuals.
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