PRESS RELEASE: 9 February 2018

For immediate distribution

SUPPORT FOR SARS PROBE INTO FINANCIAL IRREGULARITIES IN THE RELIGIOUS SECTOR

Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) supports the recent decision by SARS to conduct a probe into some instances of financial irregularity and abuse reported within the religious sector. 

We understand that this probe has been encouraged (and is supported) by the CRL Rights Commission (CRL), whose recent Report on the “Commercialisation” of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems highlighted concerns in this area.  FOR SA has supported the CRL for its work in highlighting illegal activities and abuses that occur within the religious sector and our position has always been that freedom of religion cannot be used as an excuse or reason to disobey or evade the law of the land, including the tax laws.  Our consistent view is that in almost all cases, these problems can be solved by the application and enforcement of existing laws (including, in this instance, tax laws).  The SARS probe is a good example of this in action, since they are both empowered and entitled to collect monies owed in the form of taxation and to investigate and enforce relevant legislation against any individual or entity that is non-compliant.

FOR SA promotes and encourages tax compliance and proper financial accountability, but we are aware that in some cases where this is not happening, it is due to a lack of understanding of relevant legislation and regulatory requirements – hence our appeal for the CRL and others to educate and assist individuals and organisations with regard to their legal and ethical obligations.  However, the vast majority of the faith community operates with financial integrity and are compliant with all legislative requirements. 

While it is possible that some may resist the SARS probe, we believe that such resistance can be limited if SARS clearly communicates the scope and intention for conducting this probe in terms of existing legislation.  In principle however, there should be no objection to SARS and other State agencies applying and enforcing existing law, and where there is resistance, that in itself may be reason for SARS to probe.

ENDS.

For more information, contact:
Michael Swain
Executive Director, FOR SA
Email: Michael.swain@forsa.org.za
Cell: 072 270 1217