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No appeal yet as deadline nears for SARS to share Zuma's tax records with the media

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No appeal yet as deadline nears for SARS to share Zuma's tax records with the media

Former President Jacob Zuma
Photo by Reuters
Former President Jacob Zuma

29th November 2021

By: News24Wire

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The deadline for the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to share the personal tax returns of former president Jacob Zuma with two media groups is fast approaching, with no word from the tax agency about whether it intends to appeal. 

Two weeks ago, the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria ordered SARS to supply investigative journalism site amaBhungane and weekly business magazine the Financial Mail with Zuma's tax files for the years between 2010 and 2018. 

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The publications had launched a joint court bid to access the former president's tax information in late 2019, in the wake of the publication of The President's Keepers, a 2017 book by journalist Jacques Pauw.

Judge Norman Davis ruled that there should be a public interest exception to the tax agency's policy of absolute confidentiality. 

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A confidential question 

SARS had long argued that complete confidentially is needed to get South African to pay taxes, with Commissioner Edward Kieswetter previously describing it as a "sacrosanct pillar" for the agency.

But in his ruling Davis said there was no evidence to show that secrecy was a more important driver of taxpayer morality than the threat of penalties and sanctions.

He ordered SARS to share Zuma's personal tax files with amaBhungane and the Financial Mail within 10 days of his ruling.  

AmaBhungane's co-managing partner, Sam Sole, told Fin24 the deadline was on Tuesday, 30 November. 

SARS did not respond to a request for comment sent on Monday. 

While SARS has not yet said whether it will appeal, analysts think it highly likely the revenue collection agency will try to get the ruling overturned given the weight the agency has placed on preserving confidentiality. But time is getting tight. 

The Jacob Zuma Foundation, meanwhile, has said that while the ruling must be appealed, it is looking to SARS to take the lead. 

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