The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is launching a major recruitment drive, targeting highly skilled workers to help build a data-driven ‘smart tax authority’ – which experts say is the first salvo into tackling wealthy taxpayers who may be avoiding their tax obligations.
The revenue service on Saturday (27 March) announced that it was looking to hire 370 highly skilled specialists, as well as 200 finance graduates to reinforce its capabilities – but with a particular focus on technology.
“SARS is preparing for a future where increasingly our work will be informed by data driven insights, self-learning computers, artificial intelligence and interconnectivity of people and devices,” it said.
“Mindful of this, we are evolving our workforce to prepare for this exciting changed and changing world of work. Whilst we continue to develop our own employees, we invite talented and passionate executives, who share our strong public service ethos and unmistakeable commitment to improving the material conditions and wellbeing of all South Africans.”
The group said that its ‘Vision 2024’ is to build a ‘smart modern tax authority’, looking for specialised skills in the following fields:
- IT specialists, including developers, database administrators, security and software engineers, SAP specialists and integration designers;
- Data management specialists, including data analysts and data scientists;
- Audit and risk specialists;
- Investigation specialists, especially criminal investigators and forensic auditors;
- Research analysts;
- Social scientists;
- Project leaders;
- Legal specialists; and
- Regulatory and risk specialists.
The 200 graduates it’s looking for are from the disciplines of tax, customs, legal, audit and chartered accounting (CA).
SARS is also looking for senior executives in several of these fields, including a chief technology and innovation officer, chief data scientist and a director for high wealth individuals.
The revenue service directed potential candidates to its recruitment page to apply.
Clamp-down on the rich
The director for high wealth individuals is particularly notable, according to tax advice and compliance service provider Tax Consulting South Africa, as it points directly to the statement from National Treasury that it is targeting high net worth individuals in the country that may be dodging their tax obligations.
“The premise is that the commissioner (Edward Kieswetter) bemoaned capacity and budget – and it looks like their prayers have been answered following the 2021 Budget Speech.
“This recruitment drive will give SARS the resources they need to successfully target the High Net Worth Individuals alluded to in the Budget Speech and bring non-compliant taxpayers to book,” Tax Consulting said.
In his 2021 budget speech, finance minister Tito Mboweni indicated that Treasury and SARS will assess the viability of a future wealth tax, as it collects more data on the country’s super rich.
“Following the recommendations of the Davis Tax Committee, SARS will focus on consolidating wealth data for taxpayers through third-party information,” Treasury said in its 2021 Budget Review. “This will assist in broadening the tax base, improving tax compliance and assessing the feasibility of a wealth tax.”
Judge Dennis Davis, who heads the committee, recommended that lifestyle audits be done on people in South Africa who were flaunting wealth, but not showing income and tax trends in line with that level of spending.
In a January interview with 702, Davis said the tax tables show that only around 5,000 – 6,000 South Africans report taxable income of more than R5 million, and that lifestyle audits on wealthy individuals could help make up this shortfall.
“Drive around Clifton, Camps Bay, Bishop’s Court, Bryanston and Sandton and count how many houses there are that have to have that level of income for the upkeep.
“That is apart from all of the luxury motor cars you see on our roads. So if you take R5 million (as the top bracket), there are a lot of rich people who probably have a lot more than that and are not disclosing it.”
Davis said that authorities could approach Natis, which is responsible for maintaining and registry of cars in the country, and find out who owns all of these cars and perform a tax audit on them.
“If you have a R3 million Ferrari and are reporting R100,000 in taxable income, I think the revenue authority is entitled to knock on your door and ask you to explain,” he said.
Davis added that a clear definition of ‘wealth’ needed to be established and that lifestyle audits would help with collecting information on the assets of the wealthy.