KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!


Know Your Rights!

The Powers of a SARS: Customs Official in terms of The Customs and Excise Act, No. 91 of 1964

  1. An officer may, for the purposes of this Act without previous notice, at any time enter any premises whatsoever and make such examination and enquiry as he deems necessary.
  2. While he is on the premises or at any other time require from any person the production then and there, or at a time and place fixed by the officer, of any book, document or thing which by this Act is required to be kept or exhibited or which relates to or which he has reasonable cause to suspect of relating to matters dealt with in this Act and which is or has been on the premises or in the possession or custody or under the control of any such person or his employee.
  3. At any time and at any place require from any person who has or is believed to have the possession or custody or control of any book, document or thing relating to any matter dealt with in this Act, the production thereof then and there, or at a time and place fixed by the officer.
  4. Examine and make extracts from and copies of any such book or document and may require from any person an explanation of any entry therein and may attach any such book, document or thing as in his opinion may afford evidence of any matter dealt with in this Act.
  5. An officer may take with him on to any premises an assistant (Customs Officers) or a member of the police force.
  6. Any person in connection with whose business any premises are occupied or used, and any person employed by him shall at any time furnish such facilities as may be required by the officer for entering the premises and for the exercise of his powers under this Act.
  7. If an officer, after having declared his official capacity and his purpose and having demanded admission into any premises, is not immediately admitted, he and any person assisting him may at any time, but at night only in the presence of a member of the police force, break open any door or window or break through any wall on the premises for the purpose of entry and search.
  8. An officer or any person assisting him may at any time break up any ground or flooring on any premises for the purpose of search and if any room, place, safe, chest, box or package is locked and the keys thereof are not produced on demand, may open such room, place, safe, chest, box or package in any manner.
  9. An officer may require any person to appear before him at any time and place fixed by the officer and may then and there question that person, either alone or in the presence of any other officer, as he thinks fit, with respect to any matter dealt with in this Act.
  10. An officer may question, either alone or in the presence of any other officer, as he thinks fit, with respect to any matter dealt with in this Act, any person whom he finds on any premises entered in terms of this Act or whom he has reasonable grounds for believing to be or to have been employed on any premises in respect of which any provision of this Act is applicable, or whom he has reasonable grounds for believing to be or to have been in possession, custody or control of anything, in respect of which any such provision is applicable.
  11. Where at any time during the investigation the officer decides that it is necessary to establish whether the goods are liable to forfeiture, the goods maybe detained in terms of section 88 (1) (a) to determine if the goods have been irregularly dealt with in terms of this Act.
  12. Such goods may be so detained where they are found or shall be removed to and stored at a place of security determined by such officer, at the cost, risk and expense of the owner or the person in whose possession or on whose premises they are found, as the case may be.
  13. No person shall remove the goods from any place where it was so detained or from a place of security determined by an officer.
  14. An officer may lock up, seal, mark, fasten or otherwise secure any warehouse, store, room, place or goods if he has reason to believe that any contravention under this Act has been or is likely to be committed in respect thereof or in connection therewith.
  15. If any lock, seal or mark placed upon any goods by an officer in terms of the provisions of this Act, is willfully opened, broken, obliterated or altered or if any goods which have been locked, sealed, marked or otherwise secured in terms of this Act are removed or if any room or place for storing goods, after having been fastened down or sealed by an officer, opened without his consent, the person in charge of such place, as the case may be, shall be guilty of an offense unless he proves that it was not possible for him to have prevented the act in question.
  16. It is compulsory to furnish such information in such a manner and within such time as the officer may determine, and to produce on demand for inspection and to allow the making of copies or extracts from such invoices, books of account or other documents in whatever form, as the officer may specify.
  17. No person may, without good cause shown, refuse to comply with any such requirement of an officer.
  18. Any person carrying on any business in the Republic shall keep within the Republic in one of the official languages such books, accounts and documents relating to his transactions as may be prescribed by this Act and such books, accounts and documents shall be kept in such form and manner and shall be retained for a period of 5 years.
  19. Any person referred to in this Act, shall upon demand by the officer produce to him such books, accounts or documents related to the goods under investigation as he may require and such person shall submit such particulars in connection with his transactions immediately or at such other agreed time.
  20. Any person selling, offering for sale or dealing in imported or excisable goods or any person having such goods entered in his books or mentioned in any documents shall, when requested by an officer, produce proof as to the person from whom the goods were obtained.
  21. If such goods do not comply with the provisions of this Act, the officer may detain or seize the goods;

Know your rights

  1. Each SARS official is issued with an identity card to exercise his powers and duties for purposes of the administration of this Act.
  2. When a SARS official exercises his power or duty for purposes of the administration of this Act, each official must identify himself/herself by producing his identity card upon request by a member of the public.
  3. If the official does not produce the identity card, a member of the public is entitled to assume that the person is not a SARS official and refuse him access to his premises.
  4. Any person accompanying the SARS officials or SAPS members who cannot be identified as being a SARS official or a SAPS member must not be allowed on the premises and must be requested to leave the premises immediately and be informed that a charge of trespassing will be laid against him.
  5. The official in charge must explain the reason for his visit and act in a professional manner respecting the rights of the owner.
  6. The officials must conduct the search with strict regard for decency and order.
  7. If the search is conducted by SAPS under a warrant, SAPS must produce the warrant. Failure to produce a warrant entitles a person to refuse access to SAPS.
  8. Ensure that the details contained in the warrant are representative of the persons, entity and address and clearly depicts the documents or goods they are searching for.
  9. If SARS officials are accompanied by SAPS, a warrant is not a requirement.
  10. No person may obstruct a SARS official or SAPS member from executing his duties.
  11. The SARS official must make an inventory of the relevant documentation detained in the form, manner and at the time that is reasonable under the circumstances and provide a copy thereof to the person from whom it was detained.
  12. If any goods are detained or seized, the detention or seizure notice must clearly depict the description, quantity, name and contact details of the responsible officer and the location where the seized goods will be held.
  13. Any goods seized must be claimed by the owner within 30 days from the date of seizure and if SARS refuse to release the goods on good cause shown, legal action must be institute within 90 days from date of seizure. If not claimed or legal action instituted within the time limits, the goods concerned shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be deemed to be condemned and forfeited.
  14. The Commissioner or any officer shall not disclose any information relating to any person, firm or business acquired in the performance of his duties, except in the performance of his or her duties under this Act or by order of a competent court.
  15. If the SARS official seizes goods or relevant material, the official must ensure that the goods or relevant material seized is preserved and retained until it is no longer required for the investigation into the non-compliance or the offense described in the warrant or forfeited to the state.

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