NEWS

Controversial Lifman's Sars Case To Be Heard In 2017

The matter was placed on the semi-urgent court roll for 20 February at the Western Cape High Court.

29/11/2016 10:45 SAST | Updated 29/11/2016 10:45 SAST
Shutterstock / Kuzma

Controversial businessperson Mark Lifman's application to halt all action by the South African Revenue Service (Sars), pending the outcome of a new alleged review of his tax bill, will be heard next year.

The matter was placed on the semi-urgent court roll for 20 February at the Western Cape High Court, in terms of an agreement between the parties on Monday.

Sars, senior Sars manager Keith Hendrickse, and Macrobert Attorneys, the firm representing the revenue service, would have to file their answering papers by 20 January.

News24 revealed last week that an internal war had broken out in Sars after auditor Gavin Cairns wrote to Lifman on 3 November to confirm that he would review the controversial businessman's audit "at your office" in January 2017.

Lifman's tax affairs formed part of Project All Out, during which Sars audited the businesses and assets of Lifman and his associates. He was served with a R388m tax bill last year and is trying to place some of his businesses under business rescue.

Sars is opposing the action, arguing that Lifman is trying to prevent his businesses from being liquidated.

Lifman brought a counter-application to the high court, asking it to interdict Sars from implementing the findings of its audit before a review of his tax affairs has been finalised.

New investigative unit

The "decision" to review Lifman's audit forms part of the actions of a new investigative unit in Sars, established under tax commissioner Tom Moyane, to investigate the involvement of Sars officials in the illicit tobacco trade.

Asked by News24 how Lifman's audit relates to the tobacco investigation, Sars spokesperson Sandile Memela quoted the tax secrecy clause prohibiting Sars from divulging the matters of individual taxpayers.

"Also, the matter is before the courts. Sars cannot comment until the legal process has been completed," Memela said.

Sars had applied to place one of his entities, Seasons Find 764, in final liquidation. Lifman, meanwhile, is trying to place the entity under business rescue.

In terms of the order by agreement on Monday, both the winding-up and business rescue applications were postponed to March 16 next year.

Costs in all matters would be determined at a later stage.

'Target of illegal spying'

Lifman's tax troubles with Sars started in May 2014 when an inquiry into his affairs was launched.

In an affidavit, dated November 23 this year, Lifman said he was trying to understand the reasons behind the inquiry.

"I do not know what allegations the decision to launch the tax inquiry was based on, however information has come to light that it may be based on untested covert intelligence procured by, what is now known as, the 'Sars rogue unit'."

His legal representative had made an official request to Sars for information relating to it.

Lifman, in his affidavit, explained that he believed there was something untoward about the Sars probe into his affairs.

"I have formed the apprehension that I was perhaps the target of illegal spying by government functionaries, especially after realising that a known spy had arranged to meet with me in November 2013," he said.