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What to do if SARS takes your material or causes damage during a search and seizure

by , 29 August 2013
SARS's power to gather information is greater than it's ever been. SARS can enter your premises unannounced to conduct a search of your premises. It can seize any relevant documents under a search and seizure warrant issued by a judge or magistrate. But what happens when SARS has taken your documents or material. Can you get it back? Read on to find out...

When SARS conducts a search and seizure, it can seize:

  • Any physical documentation or information they think can be used in the information gathering process; and
  • Any storage device it thinks may contain information or documentation they require to investigate the matter. This includes your computers, hard drives or any computer related device.

Basically, SARS can seize any and everything relating to your business if it' can give further information for SARS' investigation, says the Practical Tax Loose Leaf Service.

But what happens when damage is caused during the search and seizure? And are you allowed to get your material back?

Has SARS taken your material or cause damage during a search and seizure? Here's what to do…

If SARS takes your property or causes damage during a search and seizure, you can apply for the cost of damages or for seized material to be returned.

This means you can ask SARS to:

  • Return some or all of the seized material; and
  • Pay the costs of physical damage caused during the conduct of a search and seizure.

If SARS refuses your request, you can apply to the high court for the return of the seized material or payment compensation of physical damage caused during the search and seizure, says the Practical Tax Loose Leaf Service.

If the court orders the return of the seized material, it can let SARS keep the original or a copy of any relevant material in the interest of justice.

While SARS has the power to conduct search and seizures, you're also protected under the Tax Administration Act. So make sure you follow the above mentioned procedure if SARS takes your material or causes damage during a search and seizure.

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