SARS says pay up, but the court says no: An important case on taxpayers rights

Author: Louis Botha. In Nondabula v Commissioner: SARS and Another (4062/2016) [2017] ZAECMHC 21 (27 June 2017), heard by the Mthatha High Court, Nondabula (Taxpayer), brought an application to interdict the South African Revenue Service (SARS) from invoking the provisions of s179 of the Tax Administration Act, No 28 of 2011 (TAA) pending the final determination of the Taxpayers objection to an additional assessment of his income tax. Furthermore, the Taxpayer sought an order that SARS withdraw its third party notice, in terms of which SARS instructed Absa to withhold and pay over monies held in the Taxpayers bank account.

The lawfulness of retrospective amendments in tax law

Author: Beric Croome. On 29 May 2017, Judge Fabricius delivered judgment in the Gauteng High Court in the case of Pienaar Brothers (Pty) Ltd vs Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service and the Minister of Finance, in a case dealing with the Taxation Laws Amendment Act, 2007 (the Amending Act) which inserted section 44(9A) into the Income Tax Act, 1962 (the Act). The taxpayer sought an order declaring that section 34(2) of the Amending Act is inconsistent with the Constitution, and invalid to the extent that it provides that section 44 (9A) of the Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on 21 February 2007 and to be applicable to any reduction or redemption of the share capital or share premium of a resultant in company, including the acquisition by that company of its shares in terms of section 85 of the Companies Act, on or after Read More …

Ubi ius, ubi remedium: Proposed amendments to the Tax Administration Act

Author: Louis Botha (Associate at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr). Currently, in terms of section 9 of the Tax Administration Act, No 28 of 2011 (TAA) a decision made by a South African Revenue Services (SARS) official and a notice to a specific person issued by SARS, excluding a decision given effect to in an assessment or notice of assessment is regarded as made by a SARS official, authorised to do so or duly issued by SARS, until proven to the contrary. Furthermore, s9 makes provision for such a decision to be withdrawn or amended by the SARS official, a SARS official to whom the SARS official reports or a senior SARS official, at the request of the relevant person.  

The shoe is on the other foot: The High Court orders SARS to discover documents in the context of a review application

Authors: Louis Botha and Nandipha Mzizi(Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr). It seldom happens that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is compelled to provide documents to a taxpayer, while SARS is conducting an audit. In Carte Blanche Marketing CC and Others v Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service (26244/2015) [2017] ZAGPPHC 253 (26 May 2017), the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria had to decide whether SARS should be compelled to produce certain documents requested by the applicants (Taxpayers) in the context of a review application brought by the Taxpayers. The main proceedings in this matter involve a review application which the Taxpayers brought against SARS seeking to set aside the decision of SARS to audit them in terms of s40 of the Tax Administration Act, No 28 of 2011 (TAA).

A taxpayer’s unfortunate experience with SARS

Author: Heinrich Louw. On 21 October 2016 judgment was handed down by the High Court (Gauteng Division, Pretoria) in the matter of BMW South Africa (Pty) Ltd v The Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (as yet unreported). Briefly, the applicant (Applicant) was a vendor for purposes of Value-added Tax (VAT). The respondent, being the South African Revenue Service (SARS), had made a finding that the Applicant did not pay certain amounts of VAT due in respect of the October 2011 to February 2012 VAT periods.

When is an error a bona fide inadvertent error?

Authors:  Louis Botha, Heinrich Louw and Mark Morgan. On 4 November 2016 judgment was handed down by the Tax Court of South Africa (held in Cape Town) in the matter of ABC Holdings (Pty) Ltd v The Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service, Case number ITI13772. In this case the court had to consider whether the taxpayer, ABC Holdings (Pty) Ltd, was entitled to claim a deductible allowance of enhancement income of R9,354,458.00 received in terms of a contract for future expenditure in terms of s24C of the Income Tax Act, No 58 of 1962 (Act) for its 2011 year of assessment. The other issue that arose in this case and which is the focus of this article, was whether the South African Revenue Service (SARS) was correct to levy an understatement penalty in the circumstances.

Section 73 of the VAT Act: The serious consequences of unlawful tax avoidance

When disputing a tax debt, especially one involving the complex issue of unlawful tax avoidance, taxpayers should always exercise great caution. This sentiment is echoed by the recent judgment in Dale v Aeronastic Properties Ltd (Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service and Others Intervening) (9297/2016) [2016] ZAWCHC 160 (25 October 2016). Although the court in this case was concerned with whether an order to place the respondent taxpayer, Aeronastic Properties Ltd (Aeronastic), under business rescue, its precarious financial situation was caused largely by an expensive tax debt. In the course of its judgment, the court made reference to the taxpayer’s dispute with the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which dispute is the subject of this article.

Alas, sometimes you can’t appeal

Author: Louis Botha (Cliffe Dekker). A certain question has been the subject of a number of recent court cases: Is an interim order or a decision which does not dispose finally of a case appealable? The Constitutional Court recently had to answer this question in two separate cases – one involving the changing of street names in Tshwane and the other involving the provisions of the National Credit Act, No 34 of 2005. The issue has now also reared its head within a tax context in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). In Wingate-Pearse v CSARS (830/2015) [2016] ZASCA 109 (1 September 2016), a taxpayer wanted to appeal, among other things, the Tax Court’s decision regarding the onus of proof and the duty to commence leading evidence.

“Exceptional circumstances” when objecting to an assessment

Author: Keelen Snyders, BDO South Africa. A recent tax case highlighted the importance of taxpayers gaining an understanding of the objection process for income tax assessments issued by SARS. The case, which was contested between ABC (Pty) Ltd and the Commissioner, was concerned with the onus on the taxpayer to prove “exceptional circumstances” when objecting to an assessment issued by SARS. In terms of the Tax Administration Act (TAA), a taxpayer may object to an income tax assessment within 30 business days of the date of the assessment. If a taxpayer wishes to object after expiry of this period, a senior SARS official may extend the period by 21 business days provided SARS is satisfied that “reasonable grounds” exist for late submission.

Tax Administration – Correction of errors in assessments

The Tax Administration Laws Amendment Act of 2015, which was promulgated on 8 January 2016, amended section 93(1)(d) of the TAA and  in future SARS will not be permitted to entertain so-called ‘requests for correction’ of tax assessments, except if SARS is satisfied that there is a (currently undefined) ‘readily apparent’ undisputed error in the assessment. It is likely that taxpayers will be severely discriminated against by this amendment. What is ‘readily apparent’ to one person may not be so to another. The number of cases in which SARS is likely to grant requests for corrections is likely to drop dramatically and a lack of consistency in interpretation between SARS’ assessors may be taken as a given.