'Every rand that we don't collect should make us upset' - Sars commissioner

The man who has the difficult job to try and steer the South African Revenue Service (Sars) ship into calmer waters and repair what is broken, commissioner Edward Kieswetter, joins Eusebius McKaiser to chat about how the revenue service is doing.

Kieswetter on his first day on the job in May had four main objectives for reforming the revenue service and he admitted that it would be difficult to turn Sars around.

His four objectives were, ridding the tax collection agency of rot after it was ravaged by State Capture; restoring taxpayer morality; depoliticising the agency and going after the illicit economy.

RELATED: 'Public Protector not a party the commissioner may give taxpayer information to'

The job at Sars is tough because damage portrayed by the Nugent report is bigger, he explains.

It is tough because our economy isn't working along with us and there is a correlation between growth in the economy and growth in tax revenue.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

He says his parents taught him the importance of hard work and that is how he views everything including his job as Sars commissioner.

There has been a shortfall in revenue collection, he explains.

The target for the year as issued in February, the target was R1.42 trillion and by mid-year, we were already running about R17 billion behind that R1.42 trillion.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

He believes South Africans should all be upset about this shortfall because it compromises the work that government does and Sars is the main provider of revenue.

Every rand that we don't collect should make us upset. We should not be disingenuous by saying that Sars is not performing optimally at the moment and it is not performing optimally because of the state of Sars, which is the work I have been tasked to fix.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

In a poor economy and a sub-optimal Sars, one can expect that there will be an under-recovery, he explains.

I would argue that the most significant component of the under-recovery at the moment is a reflection of our economy but there is a component that is represented in a less-than-optimal Sars.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

He says the Nugent Commission has highlighted a number of areas that need to be fixed at Sars, including matters of state capture.

One of the things I had to be clear about was where I stood in terms of state capture. I was very clear, state capture was real and the capture of Sars was very real. Anyone who is in denial about state capture is either complicit or ignorant and either way, it is a dangerous place to be.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

Sars on Tuesday warned that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's demand for confidential tax information of former president Jacob Zuma could have a devastating impact on the revenue.

The Public Protector Act and powers need to be looked at against the provision in law as it is prescribed by the Tax Administration Act that permits and empowers the commissioner to do certain things.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

When the legislatures drafted the act they didn't want to give the commissioner any discretion in the disclosure of taxpayer information.

The only discretion the commissioner has is on Sars confidential information. In relation to taxpayer information, the act clearly sets out which institutions Sars may divulge taxpayer information to and under what conditions and for what purpose.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

Kieswetter says he is stuck between a rock and a hard place as there are two pieces of legislation working against each other.

By giving the information, I would be committing a criminal act in terms of the Tax Administration Act and I would be committing another criminal act in terms of the Public Protector Act by not providing the information.

Edward Kieswetter, Commissioner - Sars

He says beyond legal opinion another body that could give clarity on the matter is the court.

Listen below to the full conversation


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