The recent dismissal of an urgent application by Mark Lifman and his associates to hold on to their assets clearly demonstrates the perils of being passive in dealing with SARS, says Business Day journalist Amanda Visser.

She says Lifman and his associates ‘made no attempt to initiate any of the dispute resolution procedures provided for in the Tax Administration Act against this assessment or any other subsequent assessment that made up the total amount. No payment was made either.’

Western Cape High Court Judge Elizabeth Baartman noted that because no attempt was made to use the dispute mechanism, the assessments remain final.

The judge found that since Lifman and his associates did not lodge an objection, they could not ask for an extension.

Instead, it seems the initial dissatisfaction was about treatment received (by SARS) which the applicants have belatedly and opportunistically sought to raise to an objection against the assessments. That is not permissible,’ the judge found.

Visser notes that SARS has 60 days to deliver a decision whether to allow, disallow or partially allow an objection.

Taxpayers must appeal SARS’ decision to disallow or partially allow the objection within 30 days and have little room for an extension. They can approach the courts to ask for an extension, but this can become a protracted and costly endeavour.

Says Visser: ‘Taxpayers have to submit a request for the suspension of payment with their objection. In terms of the pay-now-argue-later provision in the Act, SARS may proceed with its collection action if no request for the suspension of payment has been made.

Full analysis in Business Day