Mark Lifman Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Cape Town businessman Mark Lifman and his business associates have filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) against a Western Cape High Court finding, which gave the SA Revenue Service (Sars) the go-ahead to collect R352 million. 

In the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, Lifman’s legal representative handed their clients’ four-page application challenging Judge Elizabeth Baartman’s judgment. 

She dismissed their stay of execution application against Sars’ assessments into late filing of tax and VAT returns. 

One point of contention in Judge Baartman’s ruling raised by Lifman in his application for leave to appeal related to his request for a review of the Sars’ audit. 

In 2014 Sars launched an inquiry to investigate suspected non-compliance and/or offences committed by the suspected underworld kingpin and 36 close corporations, companies, and trusts he held an interest in.

Gavin Cairns, then specialist forensic auditor at Sars, in 2016 told Lifman he had been “tasked to attend to the review of the audit”.

But in 2018, Mogola Makola, Sars chief officer, informed Lifman that an internal “review” of an assessment was not permitted in terms of the provisions of the Tax Administration Act, meaning no there was no basis for Lifman’s application for review. Cairns had completed the review in what Sars has now called an irregular action by him.

Lifman in his application submitted that the court had erred in failing to consider that provisions of the Tax Administration Act did not preclude a review or reconsideration of an assessment. Lifman charged that in not considering the act, his constitutional rights had been infringed. 

“The matters sought to be raised on appeal are of considerable importance to the applicants and are also of interest to the public in that it sets a parameter for rectification of assessments irregularly or inappropriately concluded,” the application read.

Sars had in 2015 initiated collection steps against Lifman. In 2016, the unit which had conducted the investigation was disbanded.