SARS hunting down rich South Africans

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) said it is using data science, technology, and automation to track down and convict rich and powerful tax dodgers in the country.

This was revealed in an Investec interview with SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter, who spoke about rebuilding the country’s tax authority.

“In the era of State Capture, our tax buoyancy dropped below one. That figure is now being sustained well above one, which means that our tax revenues are growing faster than GDP,” he said.

One of the ways SARS improves tax collections is to target wealthy or powerful individuals who use creative accounting practices to avoid paying their fair share.

The revenue service employs artificial intelligence, data science, technology, and automation to find and convict tax evaders.

“Last year, we identified 26,000 people who generated more than R1 million who were not registered for tax. They are being contacted, risk-profiled, and registered,” Kieswetter said.

SARS also added 1.5 million people to the tax base in the 2022 financial year, worth an estimated R6 billion in tax revenue.

The revenue service also targets the illicit trade in tobacco and alcohol, which undercuts the collection of sin taxes.

Kieswetter said there is a growing list of convictions in the High Court off the back of the State Capture and Zondo Commissions.

“There are no rules or regulations that can prevent dishonest people from abusing the system,” he said.

However, he said they built a resilient SARS leadership model, a culture of excellence and integrity, and a team of competent people.

As such, he is upbeat about the future of SARS as a smart and modern revenue service with unquestionable integrity that is trusted and admired.


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