Warrantless search and seizure by SARS: A constitutional invasion of taxpayers' privacy? - Part one
Sec. 63 of the Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 (TAA) grants unto the South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials access to taxpayers’ private and confidential information through, first, searching a taxpayer’s person and premises without a warrant and, secondly, permitting the seizure of taxpayers’ possessions and communications. Part One of this article argues that the TAA is a “law of general application”, as envisaged by the so-called “limitation clause” contained in sec. 36(1) of the Constitution, 1996 and that – in terms of the threshold stage of analysis prescribed by this provision – the exercise of the powers conferred by secs. 63(1) and (4) limits a taxpayer’s constitutional right to privacy as entrenched in sec. 14 of the Constitution. Part Two of this article (to be published in JJS 2021(2)) hypothesises that, although the search and seizure powers in secs. 63(1) and (4) of the TAA are not models of drafting with absolute clarity, they ought – in terms of the second stage of enquiry that is triggered by the findings in Part One – nevertheless to pass muster under sec. 36(1) of the Constitution. This is because of the justifiability of the limitation imposed on the right to privacy by these provisions.
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