Publication Date: 29/03/2019

The restoration of the credibility, integrity and operational efficiency of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) is essential to the rebuilding of fiscal stability in South Africa, the creation of social development opportunities and the promotion of economic growth and job creation in the country.

The credibility, integrity and operational efficiency of Sars was seriously eroded during the tenure of former commissioner, Tom Moyane. Under Acting Commissioner, Mark Kingon, the work of rebuilding of Sars was started.

The Banking Association South Africa (BASA) welcomes the appointment of Edward Kieswetter as the new Commissioner of Sars, charged with restoring the revenue service.

The selection panel required that the new commissioner be a person of integrity; have the ability to take difficult decisions and withstand political pressure; have the skills to run a large, complex  agency; and be able to facilitate innovation and technological progress; among many other difficult criteria. We believe Mr Kieswetter is such a person, and that he has the requisite abilities to restore revenue collection, while driving necessary organisational change.

Mr Kieswetter is a former Deputy Commissioner for SARS and Group Chief Executive of Alexander Forbes Group Holdings. His experience in Sars and understanding of the financial services sector will help to facilitate an efficient, transparent and professional relationship between the banking industry and the revenue service.

The revenue service and BASA signed an accord in January this year, in which the Association undertook to promote the highest standards of tax compliance and discourage impermissible tax avoidance arrangements in the banking industry, among others.

In return, the revenue service undertook to comply with the SARS Service Charter and enter into service level agreements with banks to increase operational efficiencies for all sides. BASA is optimistic that under Mr Kieswetter’s leadership, the accord will be strengthened for the mutual benefit of the banking industry and the country.

The financial services sector is an important taxpayer. In 2017 financing, insurance, real estate and business services paid just over R74 billion in company tax – about 30.1% of all company tax. Banks employ approximately 158 000 and contributed ‘pay as you earn’ (PAYE) of R16.5 billion in 2016 and just under R18 billion in 2017, to the fiscus.

The announcement comes just before the ratings agency Moody’s is expected to release their latest review of South Africa. A restoration of an efficient revenue collection service should count in South Africa’s favour when considering its fiscal health, ability to service its debts and potential economic growth. However, government must increase the pace of reforms to reduce the cost of doing business, strengthen infrastructure development and improve national competitiveness, if we are to overcome unemployment, inequality and poverty.

We are assured by the National Treasury statement that Mr Kieswetter’s appointment was undertaken with integrity. We wish him well over the next five years.