The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is considering its next course of action after the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ordered that the revenue collector release former president Jacob Zuma’s tax information.

In a statement, SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the Service had noted the judgment. The matter was brought by media house, Arena Holdings, and investigative unit, Amabhungane.

Kieswetter said the matter of taxpayer confidentially was not about a particular individual, but what tax authorities around the world regard as an essential principle of trust between themselves and their taxpaying public.

“It is also central to our strategic intent to achieve voluntary compliance. Taxpayers need to be assured that SARS will not simply disclose the information they have in good faith, and as required in law, disclosed to us,” he said.

SARS’ original decision to oppose the application, Kieswetter said, was taken “based entirely upon these principles”.

He said the issues were “undoubtedly” important to him as SARS Commissioner, the SARS institution, and to the general public. This, Kieswetter said, was evident in the extensive affidavits that the revenue collector filed before the hearing in the High Court opposing the relief sought.

“It is also important to note that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development both opposed the application for access to a taxpayer’s confidential tax information.

“I have noted the numerous commentary on the judgment, both in the formal media and upon social platforms, and I fully understand that the media, tax and legal professionals, and as well as taxpayers are eager to understand what SARS’ position is and what our intentions are.

“I wish to assure the community that the judgment, and SARS’ options, are currently being fully deliberated and considered. Once these deliberations are concluded, a final decision will be made, and I give the assurance that we will engage again once this decision is made.”

SARS assured taxpayers, traders and tax professionals that the tax confidentiality provisions, as contained in the relevant legislation, remain binding on SARS and all SARS staff, and that any unauthorised disclosure of confidential taxpayer information remains a criminal offence.

Source: South African Government News Agency