SARS signs heavy-hitter to go after wealthy taxpayers in South Africa

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has appointed Natasha Singh, a chartered accountant with more than 20 years of experience, as the new director of its High Wealth Individual (HWI) Segment.

In line with the strategic objective to make it easy and straightforward for taxpayers to comply with their legal obligations, the appointment is of strategic importance to help improve the compliance of wealthy individuals with complex financial arrangements, SARS said.

Singh holds a master’s degree specialising in taxation. She joins SARS from Eskom, where she served as Finance Executive: Group Insurance and Tax.

Her appointment is timely as it coincides with recent reports that affect this important segment of taxpayers, including the recently released Pandora Papers, said SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter.

“We recognise the revenue contribution from this segment, in its various forms, to the Republic of South Africa,” he said.

“We also acknowledge the likely challenges that may arise, or currently exist with regards to the tax affairs and tax obligations of individuals and their families. Wealthy individuals tend to arrange their financial affairs in complex on- and offshore structures, often masking their direct beneficial ownership and true income.”

Kieswetter added that the continuing revelations from global media regarding the financial transactions of high wealth individuals across the world are a matter that needs proper investigation by suitably qualified experts such as Singh.

“Whilst our initial selection includes about 1,500 wealthy individuals and their related entities, to ensure focus, we will continue to extend our reach to include more individuals and families.”

“While SARS is committed to assisting taxpayers with their legal obligations, the organisation is equally determined to detect and deter non-compliance. In addition, SARS will not tolerate willful non-compliance and will make it hard and costly for such taxpayers without fear or favour,” Kieswetter said.

Pandora papers

Nearly 12 million financial records known as the Pandora Papers were recently leaked and put into the public domain, revealing the offshore financial assets of many internationally recognised figures.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained 11.9 million confidential documents from 14 different legal and financial services firms, which the group said offered “a sweeping look at an industry that helps the world’s ultrawealthy, powerful government officials and other elites conceal trillions of dollars from tax authorities, prosecutors and others.”

Moving money through offshore accounts, in mostly low-tax jurisdictions, is legal in most countries, and many of the people named in the data release aren’t accused of criminal wrongdoing.

But the journalist group said the 2.94 terabytes of financial and legal data – which makes this leak larger than the 2016 Panama papers release – shows the ‘offshore money machine operates in every corner of the planet, including the world’s largest democracies, and involves some of the world’s most well-known banks and legal firms.

Read: What the Pandora Papers mean for taxpayers in South Africa

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SARS signs heavy-hitter to go after wealthy taxpayers in South Africa