BATSA announced it will commit all of a R30 million SARS rebate to the #TakeBackTheTax initiative fighting the illegal trade in cigarettes. File picture: Reuters

Cape Town - British American Tobacco South Africa (BATSA) on Sunday announced it will commit all of a R30 million South African Revenue Service (SARS) rebate to the #TakeBackTheTax initiative fighting the illegal trade in cigarettes.

BATSA, which collected and paid more than R9.1 billion in taxes in South Africa last year, expected to receive the rebate for overpaid taxes shortly, the company said in a statement.

"It will be committed directly to tackling the massive illegal trade in cigarettes being run by criminal billionaires, which currently costs South African taxpayers R8 billion every single year. The money would be allocated to the successful #TakeBackTheTax initiative," BATSA head of external affairs Johnny Moloto said in the statement.

“#TakeBackTheTax has shone a light on the illegal activities of these criminal billionaires who are robbing South Africans and we are proud to continue supporting it. We are also highly encouraged by the actions that have been taken by the new SARS leadership in cracking down on this illegal trade after years of deliberate neglect,” Moloto said.

The Nugent Commission if Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance by SARS heard, directly, that SARS was deliberately neutered to allow illegal cigarette manufacturers to break the law with impunity and leech billions of rand every year out of the pockets of South Africans, he said.

“BATSA was not a beneficiary of this corruption by rogue SARS agents. It, like all other taxpayers in South Africa, was a target. We are the only local tobacco manufacturer in the country that declares all our production and pays all our taxes,” Moloto said.

BATSA also dismissed Sunday newspaper reports alleging it owed R143 million (equivalent to less than six days of the tax it collects and pays to SARS every year) to tax authorities as "false".

“We don’t owe any money for underpaying tax. We are, in fact, owed money for overpaying. That is why we are due this R30 million rebate.

“We are very confident that any analysis of our operations, and the volumes of documentary evidence we have supplied to SARS, by any auditor with the appropriate experience in customs and excise will conclude that we are utterly compliant, fully paid-up, and due the rebate, which will be used to continue to fight the illegal trade.

“South Africans continue to be ripped off by connected billionaires who are taking at least R20 million out of their pockets every single day. These criminals are the enemies of the state and of the people,” Moloto said.

African News Agency (ANA)