An analysis of the 2006 amendments to the General Anti–Avoidance Rules : a case law approach
Calvert, Teresa Michelle
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Tax avoidance has been a concern to revenue authorities throughout the ages, and revenue authorities worldwide are engaged in a constant struggle to ensure taxpayer compliance while combating tax avoidance. South Africa is no exception to this struggle and the increasingly innovative ways in which taxpayers seek to minimise their tax burdens necessitate amendments in order to remain at the forefront of taxpayer compliance. In view of the above, the general anti-avoidance rules (GAAR) have been amended numerous times to address weaknesses. The most recent of these amendments are those of 1996 and 2006. The research on GAAR in South Africa has focused on critical analyses once the legislation fails to stand up to the rigours of court, and has thus used the principle of hindsight to criticise GAAR and recommend improvements. However, in their current form (post-2006 amendments) the GAAR have not been presented before the courts, and thus the use of hindsight is not an appropriate tool to determine if the current GAAR regime has improved upon the weaknesses identified in the past. This study applied a qualitative case study approach to determine if the 2006 amendments to GAAR have in fact addressed these weaknesses. The current GAAR regime was applied to previous cases to determine if the unfavourable judgments for the Commissioner would now be considered favourable. In executing this process, an instrument was developed in phase 1 of the literature study to apply the new GAAR to the cases. In the second phase of the study this framework was applied to case law in which the previous GAAR regimes failed to stand up to the rigours of court, thus determining whether the 2006 amendments to GAAR addressed the weaknesses of the previous GAAR regime. The final phase of the study consisted of a literature control to determine if similar such conclusions have been made by other commentators to support the findings of the study. The findings of the case studies revealed that, on a balance of probabilities, none of the cases selected for analysis would have been held in favour of the Commissioner if they were brought to the courts today on the same grounds that they were attacked at the time and the courts used the instrument developed in phase 1 to apply the GAAR to these transactions. The study therefore indicates that the use of similar (often identical) wording of the purpose test as in the previous GAAR, as well as the use of the purpose test in conjunction with the amended abnormality test still result in a GAAR regime that may be an ineffective deterrent to tax avoidance.
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