Finding a balance between taxpayers' rights and Sars's powers to search premises can prove difficult, especially in cases where a tax official does not have a warrant.
The "warrantless search and seizure", a controversial new power introduced in the Tax Administration Act that came into effect last year, has been debated at length since it was first proposed a couple of years ago. The criticism against the provision stems from fears that a warrantless search could infringe certain constitutional rights of taxpayers such as taxpayers' right to privacy or fair administrative action.
The latter issue was raised at the recent 4th National Tax Conference on the Tax Administration Act hosted by the South African Institute of Tax Practitioners (SAIT). Some commentators at the conference questioned whether there are necessary checks and balances in place to adequately deal with the fairly wide and far-reaching powers granted to Sars officials to carry out warrantless search and seizures.
Section 240A of the Tax Administration Act, 2011 (as amended) requires that all tax practitioners register with a recognized controlling body before 1 July 2013. It is a criminal offense to not register with both a recognized controlling body and SARS.