Re­moved

CityPress - - Business and Tenders - DEWALD VAN RENSBURG dewald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

The SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) wants Judge Den­nis Davis re­moved from the Davis Tax Com­mit­tee and is con­sid­er­ing a com­plaint against him at the Ju­di­cial Ser­vices Com­mis­sion.

This fol­lows a City Press ar­ti­cle last week that quoted Davis crit­i­cis­ing the in­tegrity and ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Sars at an event in Cape Town.

In its state­ment, Sars ac­cuses Davis of “al­low[ing] him­self to be used as a proxy in a re­cent cam­paign be­ing waged against Sars and its lead­er­ship”.

The state­ment an­nounces the “in­ten­tion” to ask Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han to act against Davis.

Davis must re­cuse him­self or his ser­vices should be ter­mi­nated, said Sars.

Sars also said that it was “seek­ing le­gal opin­ion on the prospect” of a com­plaint at the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion. Davis Tax Com­mit­tee mem­ber Deb­o­rah Tickle said it was a pity that things were be­com­ing a brawl in the me­dia.

Davis’ job as chair­per­son of the Davis Tax Com­mit­tee had been laid down by Gord­han and the com­mit­tee was tasked with look­ing at a num­ber of tax-re­lated is­sues.

This in­cluded a look at tax ad­min­is­tra­tion and was “not sin­is­ter in any way”, she said.

Tickle said that Davis had the best in­ter­ests of gov­ern­ment, Sars and the tax­payer at heart and he, to­gether with the com­mit­tee, was there to cre­ate good tax pol­icy.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sars Act, only the fi­nance min­is­ter can re­move a mem­ber of a tax com­mit­tee, fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the al­ready fraught re­la­tion­ship be­tween Gord­han and Sars com­mis­sioner Tom Moy­ane.

Ac­cord­ing to Sars spokesper­son Luther Le­belo, the fact that the re­la­tion­ship of trust be­tween Davis and Sars was now bro­ken was enough grounds for Davis to be re­moved. “He was ap­pointed by the fi­nance min­is­ter as well as Sars. He is at­tack­ing the in­sti­tu­tion that ap­pointed him ... We em­ployed him,” said Le­belo by phone. As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, Sars had only writ­ten to Davis him­self, said Le­belo.

The for­mal let­ter to Gord­han would likely fol­low by Mon­day [to­mor­row], he said.

In its state­ment, Sars ac­cuses Davis of hav­ing “for some time now be­haved in a man­ner that could be per­ceived as ad­vo­cat­ing a veiled strat­egy to mo­bilise a pos­si­bil­ity of a tax re­volt by tax­pay­ers against the state”.

Le­belo says this is a ref­er­ence to Davis’ com­ments dur­ing a speech at the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand in 2015 when he said cor­rup­tion could lead to a tax re­volt by dis­grun­tled tax­pay­ers. Sars makes a num­ber of other al­le­ga­tions. They call Davis “part of a sys­tem­at­i­cally or­ches­trated nar­ra­tive that pri­mar­ily seeks to dec­i­mate and un­der­mine the lead­er­ship of Sars in or­der to en­gulf Sars into a cri­sis of lack of pub­lic con­fi­dence and il­le­git­i­macy”.

They also say that Davis’ be­hav­iour “leaves Sars with no op­tion but to con­clude that Judge Davis’ mo­tive is to desta­bilise Sars and to cast doubt, par­tic­u­larly to its lead­er­ship”.

Legally, Sars seems to be ac­cus­ing Davis of vi­o­lat­ing sec­tion 12(4)a of the Sars Act, which is cited in Fri­day’s state­ment.

This sec­tion reg­u­lates mem­bers of spe­cial com­mit­tees such as the Davis Tax Com­mit­tee and is the ba­sis on which the min­is­ter of fi­nance can re­move a mem­ber of a tax com­mit­tee.

The sec­tion Sars is quot­ing says that mem­bers of such a com­mit­tee “must not ... ex­pose them­selves to any sit­u­a­tion in which the risk of a con­flict be­tween their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and pri­vate in­ter­ests may arise”.

It is un­clear how Davis has a con­flict in­volv­ing his “pri­vate in­ter­ests”, but Sars says his con­flict is with his “re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­vise com­mis­sioner Tom Moy­ane on tax ad­min­is­tra­tion mat­ters”.

The sec­tion of the Sars Act also says that a mem­ber of a com­mit­tee “must be a fit and proper per­son, have ap­pro­pri­ate ex­per­tise ... and have the abil­ity to per­form ef­fec­tively as a mem­ber of that com­mit­tee”.

Davis’ com­mit­tee has been con­duct­ing a sweep­ing re­view of South Africa’s tax sys­tem and is cur­rently study­ing cor­po­rate in­come tax­a­tion. Its man­date, how­ever, also cov­ers gover­nance at Sars. Last week, City Press re­ported on a pre­sen­ta­tion by Davis at a tax avoid­ance sem­i­nar hosted in Cape Town by non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion the Al­ter­na­tive In­for­ma­tion and De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre.

Sars is seem­ingly bas­ing its ac­tions en­tirely on City Press’ re­port of last week.

City Press at­tempted to reach Davis, but print dead­lines did not give him enough time to com­ment.

SARS TAR­GET Judge Den­nis Davis

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