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SA Considers Tax Amnesty For Undeclared Offshore Savings

by Carla Johnson, Investors Offshore.com

16 May 2002


Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, South Africa's Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel revealed that the government is considering following in Italy's footsteps and implementing a tax amnesty for so-called 'grey money'.

'Grey' funds are assets and cash which are outside of the tax net, and cannot be declared because they were stashed offshore. This may have happened either for political reasons during the apartheid era, or prior to the advent of democracy in the country, according to Mr Manuel.

However, whatever the reason, both the South Africa Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica), and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) have estimated that there could be as much as R80 billion in 'grey' funds hiding offshore, and the government is keen for it to be repatriated, as this would substantially swell state coffers.

'I think it's a point worth considering,' Mr Manuel told reporters from the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association prior to an Sars briefing. However, he admitted that by offering tax amnesties, the South African government 'runs the risk of trying to deal with these kinds of issues with quite a blunt instrument.'

He added wryly: 'We don't want to do too many tax amnesties. Parliament doesn't like it.'

Sars Commissioner Pavin Gordhan told parliament's two finance committees on Tuesday that the revenue department will be targeting the country's super-rich, as well as auditors and accountants who help their clients to evade taxes.

He told the committees that the authority is developing a register of tax avoidance schemes used by companies and individuals in order to illegally under-declare income, and will be monitoring the country's wealthy taxpayers by comparing their lifestyles and assets with declarations in their tax returns, and in specially formulated lifestyle questionnaires.


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