The Constitutional Court has declared sections of the Promotions to Access of Information (PAIA) and the Tax Administration Acts (PAA) invalid.
It says sections 35 and 46 of the PAIA and sections 67 and 69 of the tax act are unconstitutional.
The court says the total prohibition of access to an individual’s tax records on the grounds that it is necessary to encourage tax disclosure is not a justifiable limitation of the rights to access to information and freedom of expression.
“Public interests outweigh the harm,” said Justice Jody Kollapen.
The Apex Court’s decision paves a way for former President Jacob Zuma’s tax records to be accessed by third parties if such an action is in the public interest.
The application was brought before the court by the Financial Mail and the aMabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.
They wanted the Apex Court to confirm a high court ruling, which instructed SARS to avail the organisations access to the tax returns within 10 days.
The ConCourt has given SARS 30 days to review its decision to refuse the organisations the access, while Parliament has been given two years to amend both Promotions to Access of Information and the Tax Administration Acts.
aMabhungane and Financial Mail want Zuma’s returns for 2010 to 2018 when he was still the Head of State.
Their move followed allegations of non-compliance by the former president.
The claims were contained in investigative journalist Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers.
In 2014, former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, also said the former president was liable for the fringe benefits accruing to him as a result of the controversial multi-million rand so-called security upgrades at his private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
In his submission to the Apex Court, the former president slammed the request to access his tax returns as an infringement to his right to privacy and dignity.
He also said the allegations in Pauw’s book had no facts that demonstrate credible evidence that he violated tax laws.
Written by: Lindiwe Mabena