Johannesburg, April 17
A 71-year-old Indian-origin surgeon in South Africa has escaped a heavy fine or possible jail sentence for not paying his taxes for nine years by performing a dozen free operations on needy patients.
Director of RMC Pharmacy Dr Nisar Ahmed Moosa of Cape Town faced eight charges of failing to submit the statutory requirement of company income tax returns from 2009 and 2017.
Multiple tax avoidance charges usually result in heavy fines or even jail terms for offenders, but Moosa’s legal team negotiated a diversion programme instead with the Specialised Tax Unit of the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
SARS agreed to the diversion programme rather than criminal prosecution after it emerged that the tax returns were not submitted because of confusion between the auditors and accountants appointed by Moosa to handle his affairs.
The two companies each believed that the other had been submitting the returns.
The prosecutor in the matter Advocate Monwabisi Mabiya said repeated requests to Moosa were not followed up.
“Because of the accused’s own dereliction, he never followed up with the accountant to confirm the returns were submitted and even when contacted by the South African Revenue Services (SARS), it was dealt with as a trifling matter.
“As a result, the returns were never submitted despite the engagement by SARS with the taxpayer,” Mabiya told the news website News24.
As part of the diversion programme, Moosa performed operations on 12 patients at a private hospital at no charge, covering the full cost of over South African Rand 300,000 (USD 20,959) which included his own charges, that of an anesthetist and all the theatre and ward charges of the hospital.
Moosa’s company paid those costs, but was also fined South African Rand 15,000 (USD 1,047), suspended for five years.
The patients were selected from the waiting list at the state-owned hospital in the city, National Prosecuting Authority Western Cape spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said in a statement.
“This case has provided the opportunity for the taxpayers involved to make reparations to society in a very fitting and suitable manner,” Mabiya told News24, although some tax practitioners have slammed the deal as allowing an alleged serial tax dodger to get away lightly.
“Although there is some merit in the benefit to the patients, this process sets a dangerous precedent for anyone to avoid their taxes due for almost a decade and then get away with it through a similar process,” said a tax accountant who requested anonymity. PTI
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