Sars illicit economy unit has tax dodgers firmly in the crosshairs

21 February 2019 - 11:59 By GENEVIEVE QUINTAL
The new illicit economy unit at Sars is similar to the former high-risk investigations structure, known as the "rogue unit".
The new illicit economy unit at Sars is similar to the former high-risk investigations structure, known as the "rogue unit".
Image: Gallo Images/Foto24/Theana Calitz

The finance minister has warned those flouting tax laws that they are in the crosshairs of the new illicit economy unit at the SA Revenue Service (Sars).

"Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, because Caesar can break your bones," Tito Mboweni said on Wednesday.

This unit is similar to the former high-risk investigations structure at the tax body, controversially dubbed the "rogue unit".

The high-risk unit was dismantled under former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, who used a 2014 report by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane on the alleged "rogue unit" to purge key officials at the revenue service.

Moyane was instrumental in crippling Sars, leading to low tax morale and a large shortfall in revenue collection. The revenue shortfall for the 2018/19 financial year was R42.4bn.

Mboweni, during his maiden budget speech on Wednesday, said Sars was being fixed in line with the recommendations from the Nugent commission.

The new illicit economy unit was launched in August 2018 and was focused on the fight against the trade in illicit cigarettes, as well as textile dumping and illicit fuel.

Speaking to journalists ahead of his speech, Mboweni said lawlessness in terms of the tax regime would not be tolerated, especially in the underground cigarette market. He referred to the move by Sars on Tuesday to seize assets belonging to alleged tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti to pay his tax debt.

Daily Maverick's Scorpio reported that warrants, issued on Monday, allowed the high court sheriff to attach property valued at almost R34m to pay tax debt relating to a 2010 case which included cigarette smuggling and falsifying export documents.

Mboweni, without naming Mazzotti, said a "courtesy visit" was paid to "people who are behaving as if they are above the law" and that more of these visits would happen.

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