Analysing and comparing warrantless Tax inspections and searches
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Sections 45 and 63 of the Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 (TAA) confer drastic information gathering powers on officials of the South African Revenue Service (SARS). On the one hand, section 45 permits warrantless routine (non-targeted) and non-routine (targeted) inspections by a SARS official in respect of records, books of accounts and documents found at premises where a taxpayer is reasonably believed to be conducting a trade or enterprise. The purpose of such inspection is to determine whether there has been compliance with specific obligations by the taxpayer. Section 63, on the other hand, permits, on the grounds of urgency and expediency in exceptional circumstances only, warrantless non-routine (targeted) searches by a senior SARS official of a taxpayer and of third parties associated with a taxpayer, as well as searches of a taxpayer's premises and those of third parties. In addition, section 63 permits the seizure of relevant material found at premises searched. All searches and seizures must occur for the purposes of the efficient and effective administration of tax Acts generally. A comparative analysis of sections 45 and 63 of the TAA reveals the existence of key differences in the substance and practical operation of their provisions. This article distils these differences through an in-depth discussion of the nature and extent of the powers of inspection and search conferred by these provisions, as well as by conceptualising the terms “inspection” and “search” for the purposes of sections 45 and 63 respectively.
- PER: 2019 Volume 22