South Africans disclose R35bn in offshore assets to taxman

Cape Town - South Africans have declared almost R35bn worth of foreign assets under the government-initiated special voluntary disclosure programme (SVDP) that closed last month.

This figure was revealed in a written answer by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. 

Gigaba said that 2 002 SVDP applications were received by the cutoff date of  August 31, and the government had already identified over R1bn in tax liabilities. 

“Of the 2 002 applications received, 305 applications have been processed, resulting in 280 SVDP agreements being concluded with tax liabilities totalling R1 031 627 067,” he said. Of this amount, R822m in tax has been collected to date.

Gigaba added that the total tax top-up to SA’s coffers from the voluntary disclosure programme could be as much as R4bn. 

The SVDP was initiated by the SA Revenue Service (SARS) on October 1 2016 to give South Africans who had "undisclosed assets abroad" a limited window to disclose these assets and apply for relief, which includes paying tax. 

"SARS will not pursue criminal charges for the tax offence arising from the disclosure," the revenue service said last year. 

Welcome relief

DA MP Alf Lees, who asked the question to Gigaba, said he was pleased with the answer. 

“While the 2 002 applications received is very much lower than the very high numbers that were suggested to be possible when the SVDP was put in place, the expected R4bn in tax revenue cannot be sneezed at,” he said. 

Lees added that the extra R4bn would be “welcome relief” given that some economists expect a tax shortfall of around R50bn of 2017/18. Earlier this month emerging markets economist Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura said South Africa's budget was facing a "hole" of about R50bn, adding that SARS needed to find new ways to raise money. 

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