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SARS to criminally prosecute taxpayers who fail to submit their returns

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - July 2018

072 847 6416 |

So much has happened and changed on the legal front this year that someone ought to write an e-book informing the country of all the new legal changes and implementations.

Fortunately, our Lawyers Online department offers the services of legal professionals to assist legal debacles of any nature, and in so doing offer informational content to keep our readership informed with regards to some of the country’s most pressing legal matters.

On this very note, you’ve probably heard that SARS has embarked on a venture to criminally prosecute taxpayers who fail to submit their returns.

A lot of people are probably freaking out right now, but don’t panic, let’s have a look at what this actually means.

Firstly, SARS doesn’t suddenly have extended powers to implicate and prosecute guilty parties. It is actually a power that SARS has always possessed, but punishment rarely resulted in actual jail-time. One can say that they haven’t used their powers to its full extent and have been lenient in a way.

Not surprising as enforcing their legal capabilities would have left many people with a criminal record, and having a criminal record is nothing to sneeze at. It affects your ambitions to travel, immigrate, business practices and event securing employment.

So what’s changed?

SARS has seen a decline in TAX returns and has ventured forth with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to now use their powers to its full extent.

So how is prosecution inflicted?

Well, prosecution may include actual jail-time, hefty fines, court orders to pay all the outstanding money owed to SARS and a criminal record. Some people have already been faced with some of these prosecutions. With that in perspective, one thing is clear, and this is right from the SARS website, taxpayers who are found guilty will end up with a criminal record.

So in conclusion, it would seem there is reason for some concern, but, in the bigger scheme of things, not submitting your tax returns is, and always have been, a criminal offence indictable by a fine or imprisonment not exceeding a period longer than two years.

Even now, upon the implementation of these prosecutions, jail-time is rare. However, it should be noted that the TAA makes provision for more serious sanctions where intent to evade tax is found. This means actually spending some time behind bars.

The good news is that the TAA and SARS give taxpayers some consolation if they wish to come clean, in which case a selection of options are available to the taxpayer; namely, avoiding criminal prosecution and an opportunity to regularise their tax matters by making a disclosure under the VDP.

If you are uncertain about the process and whether or not you may be facing serious criminal charges and prosecution thereof, please consult our Lawyers Online department for assistance.

It may also be helpful to get a clear perspective of what your rights are and what there is to be done should you be found guilty.

072 847 6416 |

SARS to Criminally Prosecute Taxpayers Who Fail to Submit Their Returns - Legal Information South Africa