Africa Cash & Carry pleads for leniency over tax woe

Family owned business says it has approached SARS with settlement bid

South Africa’s largest independent family owned wholesaler Africa Cash & Carry has launched a last-ditch attempt to convince SARS to be lenient on the company after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) said the group must pay the R1-billion it owes to the fiscus.

Africa Cash & Carry’s financial manager, Faayza Hathurani, told Sunday World the company had approached the taxman’s senior management with a settlement proposal and were awaiting feedback.

“The tax liability of the SCA case originates from the time that Africa Cash & Carry was substantially managed and controlled during the period 2003 to
2010 by its erstwhile financial director, Cassim Aysen,” Hathurani said.

“Our company has appointed advocate Gerrie Nel, who will lead a private prosecution which will be instituted against Mr Aysen and co-accused for their actions, which led to the tax liability.”

The company, which is owned by the Hathurani family, employs more than 500 people in its Joburg and Polokwane operations. The SCA upheld the court’s tax ruling that Africa Cash & Carry had suppressed its sales for the 2003 to 2009 tax years below the level of its actual sales by manually manipulating its financial records, resulting in its income tax and VAT liability being understated.

Africa Cash & Carry did not contest its attempts to undercut SARS, but challenged the methodology used by SARS to calculate its tax liability.

However, the SCA dismissed the company’s argument.

Africa Cash & Carry had an A-list team led by Jeremy Gauntlet.

The company said it would not approach the Constitutional Court to set aside the SCA’s judgment but would rather channel its energies to rescuing the business.

“We are also in close contact with our business partners to ensure that operations of the company are not disrupted, and we are hopeful that under the leadership of commissioner [Edward] Kiesweer and his senior SARS team, we will soon be able to finalise the issues,” Hathurani said.

SARS spokesperson Siphithi Sibeko said Kieweer was not involved directly in the matter.

“The settlement offer from ACC will, like all such offers, be presented to a settlement committee, and will be managed through its governance processes mandated to decide on such matter. Every matter is considered on its merits and on a case by case basis”.

Cash and carry refers to a business model that virtually excludes all credit transactions, requiring up-front payment for all goods and services.

By Kabelo Khumalo

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