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Safeguard your rights if SARS conducts search and seizure in your company - with these five easy to use steps

by , 18 June 2013
With the introduction of the Tax Admin Act, SARS' power to gather information's greater than it's ever been. This means SARS can now enter your premises unannounced, to conduct a search of your premises. It can also seize any relevant documentation under a search and seizure warrant. Although this is the case, you have rights too. Here are five things you can do to safeguard your rights if SARS searchers your company.

Your right of privacy doesn't protect you from unannounced SARS visits to your home or business premises.

SARS can enter and search your premises without a warrant if, for example, you have any outstanding tax debts.

Here's what you must do to enforce your rights if this happens to your company...

Five steps to take if your company's being searched by SARS

The Practical Tax Loose Leaf Service outlines five simple steps you can perform to ensure you have control over the situation when SARS searches your premises:

Step#1: Inspect the search and seizure warrant and ensure the following's included on the warrant:

  • The name of the alleged reason (failure to comply with the act or offence) for the warrant;
  • The details of the premises to be searched; and
  • The fact that the material to support the above will be found on these premises.

Remember to also check the date on the warrant. Make sure it's within 45 business days of issuance of the warrant unless otherwise stated on the warrant. If a warrant hasn't been issued, the SARS official must explain the reasons for the search.

He must refer to specific sections of the Tax Admin Act that empower him to search without a warrant. Essentially, you want the official to state the search's being conducted in terms of Section 63(2) (a) of the Tax Admin Act and to state the section of a Tax Act your company hasn't complied with.

Step#2: Check the SARS officials ID cards. These ID cards are a requirement of the Tax Admin Act. If you have any doubt if they're truly SARS officials, phone SARS on 0800 00 7277 or 012 422 7435 (SARS control).

Step#3: Call for legal assistance immediately. While you can't refuse or obstruct SARS officials, the Tax Admin Act allows you to seek legal assistance.

Step#4: Make a list of all documents SARS takes.

Step#5: If you're running your business from home, make sure the SARS official only searches the part of your property that's used for business purposes. Just keep in mind that he can enter the rest of your property if you give him written consent to search the rest of your house.

Remember you have rights during a search and seizure!

If SARS seizes your documents, you can examine or make a copy of the information. However, this will cost you and you can only view or make copies during business hours under the supervision of a senior SARS official.

The prescribed costs are:

• R35 for your own copy;
• 60c per page to make a copy of a physical A4 document;
• 40c to make a copy of an electronic document per A4 page; and
• R40 per disc for a copy in a computer readable form.

You can find the prescribed fees at http://www.dfa.gov.za/department/paia.pdf

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