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SA taxpayers have nowhere to hide

Thursday, 20 August 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Anne Klein
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Author: Anne Klein (Moneyweb)

Are your offshore affairs compliant?

South Africans with undisclosed offshore accounts may feel exposed after their offshore Swiss bank account information found its way into the public domain this year. The theft of information relating to some 30 000 HSBC accounts – the biggest banking leak in history – actually took place five years ago but was only recently published, amplifying calls for crackdowns on offshore tax havens.

However with or without the leak, governments had already made significant strides towards enacting new laws that govern the exchange of tax information between countries. Tax authorities around the world are collaborating to expose those who go to great lengths to escape taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is one of the pioneers in this regard. SARS has now completed the initial phase of matching information obtained through international exchange of information procedures with the taxpayer database.

The result is that individuals with HSBC accounts had an opportunity until 12 August 2015 to approach SARS via its voluntary disclosure programme (VDP) to regularise their tax affairs. For others there is no deadline as yet, but citizens would be advised to note what is coming up in terms of international tax disclsoure.

Under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, more than 90 countries including South Africa have committed to an inter-governmental tax reporting system, known as the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), which is modelled on the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

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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.

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