Section 45 of the Tax Administration Act: An unconstitutional limitation on taxpayer privacy?
Author: Fareed Moosa
Affiliations: Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 1, p. 171-196
The Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 is a law of general application. Section 45 of the Act empowers a SARS official to enter, without a warrant, premises where a trade or enterprise is reasonably believed to be carried on in order to conduct an inspection aimed at gathering information that will aide SARS in determining whether the business operator is compliant with tax obligations. In a constitutional democracy, the enjoyment of fundamental rights has a high premium. Accordingly, every lawful exercise of the power conferred by s 45 must take place in an orderly fashion, with decency and respect for taxpayers and their privacy. The state may not unduly interfere with this right, whether by withdrawing it altogether, abridging it, or diminishing its scope and ambit. This article hypothesises that inspections undertaken in terms of s 45 limit taxpayers’ privacy in a manner that may not pass muster under s 36(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. On this basis, it is argued that, to cure its deficiencies, s 45 ought to be amended by the introduction of the provisions proposed in this article.