Cape Town - The taxman is seeking R388million in taxes owed by controversial businessman Mark Lifman and has asked the high court to put all his business entities under liquidation in an attempt to recoup the money.
However, Lifman has asked the court to rather put his businesses under business rescue because he believes there may be a turnaround in their fortunes.
The fight between the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and Lifman has been ongoing since 2015 after Sars slapped him with a bill of R388m for failing to pay income and business tax.
The amount is confirmed in an affidavit from senior Sars manager Keith Hendrickse and papers presented to their attorneys, MacRoberts Incorporated.
Since then, Lifman and his legal team have been at loggerheads with Sars and have tried to place some of his trading entities under business rescue.
Proceedings commenced on April 22, 2015, and Lifman argued there was nothing untoward or impetuous about the launch of business rescue proceedings, nor had there been an ulterior motive.
On Monday, the application for liquidation and subsequent business rescue of Seasons Find 764cc, of which Lifman is the sole member, was postponed to August 12 because the stay application on the collection by Sars must be determined. The taxman seeks to set aside business proceedings.
Sars also wants to have Seasons Find placed under liquidation. In papers, it said the commencement of business rescue proceedings was another stratagem in an ongoing effort by Lifman to evade the satisfaction of the Lifman Group’s tax debts.
His woes started when the court granted Sars an order to commence an inquiry into non-compliance for years of assessment. The inquiry commenced on May 26, 2014 and continued until June 2015.
Hendrickse, in his founding affidavit, said: “I point out that Mr Lifman and Seasons Find 764cc failed to comply with the prescribed procedure and failed to furnish Sars with the complete set of documents pertaining to the commencement of business rescue proceedings.
“Furthermore Mr Lifman, in conducting the financial affairs of Seasons Find 764cc and the entities controlled by him, did so with a flagrant disregard and abuse of the separate legal personality of the entities.
“In this regard, it bears mentioning that the inquiry revealed that Mr Lifman indiscriminately transfers funds between and among himself and Seasons Find 764cc (and the entities managed and controlled by him) without having any regard to the fact that the property, gains, debts and liabilities of the entities belonged to it, and not to him.
“Seasons Find 764cc is factually insolvent and the business rescue plan set up by the business rescue practitioner shows there is no reasonable prospect for rescuing.”
But Lifman, in his affidavit, denied any negligent or fraudulent intent; it was simply a matter of poor bookkeeping, he said
“I admit that as a result of poor accounting personnel, mine and that of my group entities erred in its tax affairs.
“Seasons Find 764cc is financially distressed because it cannot pay all its creditors out of the current earnings. I am of the view that if the business rescue proceedings become operative and a proper business rescue plan is implemented and adopted, it is likely that Seasons Find 764cc will recover.”