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If the treasury has its way, SARS will no longer be able to search your premises without a warrant

by , 05 July 2013
The National Treasury has published its Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill for public comment. 'This draft legislation gives tax proposals announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in his 2013 budget,' reports Fin24. And this includes changes to the way SARS interacts with you. Here's why you should pay close attention to what the proposed amendments says about SARS' search and seizure policies.

According to Fin24, the Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill addresses the legislation problem that gives customs officials wide powers to search any premises, at any time, without a warrant.

In terms of the Tax Admin Act, SARS can enter your premises unannounced to conduct a search of the premises. When it does, it can seize any relevant documentation under a search and seizure warrant issued by a judge or magistrate.

  • Up until now, SARS has been able to search your premises for reasons not identified in a warrant if a senior SARS official has reasonable grounds to believe that:
  • The material at another premises not identified in the warrant and there's a chance it may be destroyed and removed;
  • The SARS official can't get a warrant in time to prevent the removal or destruction of the relevant material; and
  • 'The delay in getting the warrant will defeat the object of the search and seizure because the material may have already been removed or destroyed,' says the Practical Tax Loose Leaf Service.

But now, aWestern High Court judgment has found that this provision unconstitutional.

That's why 'the proposed amendment aims to correct this by establishing the broad principle that an officer may enter premises only on the authority of a warrant,' adds Fin24.

Here's why you should watch the tax administration laws amendment bill closely

While reports indicate that Treasury has said the tax proposals still require consultations and would be dealt with later this year or next year, you need to keep your eyes open to see how this pans out as government seeks to protect your rights when it comes to search and seizures.

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