Beefing up tax enforcement

THE SOUTH African Revenue Services (SARS) has convened a forum of commissioners from bordering countries, including Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to deliberate on core tax and customs issues.

The forum debated issues linked to illicit financial flows, base erosion and profit sharing, transfer pricing and cross-border enforcement.

According to SARS, the aim was to chart a road map going forward and maximise the respective participating countries’ statutory mandates of revenue collection.

Recently the International Monetary Fund released a working paper, which said “the cost of multi-national companies deliberately avoiding tax exceeds $200 billion per year”.

The Organisation for Economic Capacity and Development (OECD) said developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than what is received in international aid per year.

Added to this, a report by the African Union on illicit financial flows said $60 billion is annually tapped from the continent.

It is against this backdrop of abusive tax practices, SARS convened the forum.

SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane called for collective cross-border strategies to respond to the challenges, which can lead to a continental discussion under the African Tax and Administration Forum (ATAF).

Moyane, in his opening address at the forum, said exports out of developing countries are often under-invoiced so that income is accrued abroad, and imports into developing countries are often under-invoiced, so that the excess payment accumulates in foreign accounts.

He acknowledged the increase in automatic exchange of tax information and posed the question on how this can be leveraged.

The meeting culminated in a joint statement of in-principle agreements and actions.