Opinion

Moyane could disclose Zuma’s tax details – but don’t hold your breath

03 November 2017 - 20:07 By Kyle Cowan
South African Revenue Services commissioner Tom Moyane.
South African Revenue Services commissioner Tom Moyane.
Image: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath

SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane is sitting with the loaded gun that could see President Jacob Zuma removed from office or absolved of wrongdoing over his taxes.

Moyane may‚ under the Tax Administration Act (TAA)‚ publish Zuma’s tax information‚ or parts thereof without his permission‚ to protect the integrity of the South African Revenue Service.

Following revelations in investigative journalist Jacques Pauw’s new book‚ The President’s Keepers: Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison‚ which tells how Zuma dodged the taxman’s iron grip for years‚ it would almost certainly be in the best interest of SARS to do just that.

Of more particular interest is the fact that Zuma may have been paid R1-million a month by a Durban-based security company‚ Royal Security‚ for a few months after he took office. Zuma’s long-time friend Roy Moodley is linked to the firm‚ Pauw wrote.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos has said this allegation‚ if true‚ is the most shocking and is an impeachable offence.

The payments to Zuma were picked in a routine tax audit and it emerged that SARS had not received its mandatory cut of the earnings.

The outstanding tax bill was reportedly settled by Moodley himself‚ and that was to be the end of the matter.

Why this apparent wrongdoing was never reported to law enforcement or even the National Assembly by the SARS commissioner at the time‚ Pravin Gordhan‚ is a question that remains to be answered.

But Chapter 6 of the TAA‚ under Section 67 sub-section 5‚ reads as follows:

“The commissioner may‚ for purposes of protecting the integrity and reputation of SARS as an organisation and after giving the taxpayer at least 24 hours’ notice‚ disclose taxpayer information to the extent necessary to counter or rebut false allegations or information disclosed by the taxpayer‚ the taxpayer’s duly authorised representative or other person acting under the instructions of the taxpayer and published in the media or any other manner.”

In a press statement issued on Friday‚ SARS said it was taking legal advice on how to proceed against Pauw and the publisher of the book for violating the confidentiality prescripts of the tax Act.

The Sunday Times‚ which published extracts from the book last weekend‚ was also in the taxman’s crosshairs.

“The premise of the piece hinges on the predictable narrative that the organisation cannot fulfil its mandate since the appointment of Commissioner Moyane because he is allegedly using his position to protect the president‚” the SARS statement reads‚ adding that it was concerned about apparent bias and irresponsible tone of the articles that sought to “cast aspersions on the character of Commissioner Moyane”.

SARS points out that the allegations about Zuma’s tax affairs refer to events that occurred prior to Moyane being appointed.

“Another fact that proves that the book and the newspaper report are devoid of any factual substance is that all former SARS officials mentioned in the article voluntarily resigned from SARS‚” the statement continues‚ a reference to the members of the so-called rogue unit who were investigating Zuma and his pals when they left SARS under a cloud.

But the next part of the SARS statement is nothing more than jargon designed to please Number One and mislead the public at large.

“It must be appreciated that‚ as a result of the dictates of the TAA‚ the commissioner is unable to address the veracity of the allegations insofar as they relate to engagement between SARS and other parties‚ including the president.

“We reiterate that the commissioner‚ along with all former and current SARS officials‚ is compelled to uphold the confidentiality of any taxpayer’s information‚ regardless of the position or status of the taxpayer.”

After lamenting the “difficult position” SARS has been put in by the book‚ its statement gets even better:

“SARS cannot refute such reckless reporting by publishing the correct information‚ for in doing so SARS would contravene the law and also breach the relationship of trust between SARS and taxpayers.”

It would appear then‚ that if Moyane was truly concerned about the negative perception of SARS created by the allegations‚ he could reveal the truth of what he and SARS have labelled false.

In so doing‚ Moyane would prove once and for all that Zuma was not receiving preferential treatment from the tax collector.

But don’t hold your breath.

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