Monday 17 September 2018

The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA) has announced the ramping up of its #TakeBackTheTax campaign, calling for an immediate clampdown on rampant tax evasion in the tobacco industry.

The campaign was launched in July this year, on the back of a report by IPSOS which exposed that illegal cigarettes costing as little as R5 per pack are now available for sale in more than 100,000 shops all across South Africa.

The IPSOS study is the most robust scientific analysis of the multi-billion-rand illegal cigarette market ever carried out in South Africa.

Almost 10,000 South Africans have now signed on to #TakeBackTheTax calling on government to put an end to this criminality and ensure that every cigarette sold in South Africa pays all the taxes owed.

At least R7 Billion in taxes could be recouped in this manner. This is a massive figure and could assist Government with providing basic services to millions of people.

TISA has also announced the appointment of renowned anti-crime activist, Yusuf Abramjee, as the official spokesperson of #TakeBackTheTax saying this is the perfect fit for TISA as he has supported this campaign since it began.

TISA Chairman and CEO, Francois Van Der Merwe said: “TISA is delighted that Yusuf Abramjee has agreed to take on a bigger role in our campaign. He is a long standing and passionate anti-crime activist and his role as spokesperson will help to promote #TakeBackTheTax and rally more South Africans to its cause.”

“This campaign is about saying that all companies who want to manufacture and sell tobacco in South Africa must comply with all of the laws of the land and pay the tax owed on every cigarette,” said Van Der Merwe.

Abramjee himself is thrilled with this appointment, saying he firmly believes that “crime needs to be fought at all levels, and the #TakeBackTheTax Campaign is something he feels strongly about”.

“I’ve supported this campaign from the very beginning and am excited to ramp it up to a new level as its official spokesperson” adds Abramjee.

“The illegal cigarette trade is literally daylight robbery. Traders don’t even try to hide it anymore. Cheap cigarettes for R5 and R10 per pack are boldly displayed and sold in almost every shop and on every table top in the country, ever since the breakdown at SARS over three years ago.”

Abramjee points to specific evidence including a submission made in July by the former Head of Customs and Tax Enforcement at SARS, Gene Ravele, who told the Nugent Inquiry into SARS that the decision to allow the illegal trade in cigarettes to flourish was “planned”.

“After I left [in 2015], there was no inspections at cigarette factories. Until today. When the Minister of Finance complains of the lack of compliance, it was planned,” Ravele was quoted as saying then.

In August, National Treasury testified before the SARS Inquiry that their excise receipts from tobacco have also declined by 20% in the past year alone, largely because of manufacturers not declaring all that they are making and selling.

TISA has also revealed that thousands of jobs have been lost in the legal value chain in the past few years and more are at risk today as a result of the manufacture and sale of these illegal cigarettes.

Abramjee is adamant that everyone can see that this problem is now completely out of control and that Treasury and SARS have seen it in their numbers.

“Critically, the Health Ministry statistics show that smoking rates have stopped declining in South Africa. It is no surprise that this is the case when you can buy a whole pack of cigarettes for R5 – R10 on every street corner” adds Abramjee.

“This now needs to be stopped as a matter of urgency!”

TISA is calling on all law abiding members of public to add their names and make submissions by visiting takebackthetax.org and following @TakeBackTheTax on twitter.

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