Income tax-related search and seizure in South Africa: Lessons from Canada and New Zealand

Authors Carika Fritz

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, Department of Mercantile Law, University of Pretoria
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 29 Issue 2, 2017, p. 240 – 269


The article identifies certain aspects that prevent the current search-and seizure provisions in the Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 from achieving a balance between effective tax administration, on the one hand, and respect for the fundamental rights of taxpayers, on the other. It is shown that, whilst obtaining a warrant on an ex parte basis achieves this required balance, the same cannot be said for not requiring specific details with regard to what items may be searched for in terms of a warrant and allowing warrantless searches based on the subjective discretion of a South African Revenue Service (SARS) official. The article further considers the income tax-related search-and-seizure provisions in Canada and New Zealand in order to address the identified imbalances. From this comparative analysis, it is apparent that it is unnecessary for the SARS to be permitted to conduct warrantless searches based on its subjective discretion in the current search-and-seizure framework, together with certain provisions found in these two jurisdictions, would provide a more suitable alternative.