Customs searches: Past, present and future
The South African Revenue Service is afforded the power to conduct customs searches in order to verify compliance. This article deals with the development of this power, taking into consideration a taxpayer’s constitutional rights. It discusses the customs search provisions prior to the Tax Administration Law Amendment Act, and thereafter, as well as the customs search provisions in terms of the Customs Control Act. The article addresses whether these developments can be considered constitutionally sound. In order to evaluate constitutionality, a constitutional search framework is developed within which searches should be conducted to pass constitutional muster. Comparing this framework with the present customs search provisions leads to the conclusion that the present customs search provisions are a substantial improvement on the previous provisions and that the provisions are constitutional. The same conclusion can, however, not be reached with regard to future customs search provisions in terms of the Customs Control Act.