In his latest book, The President’s Keepers – Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison, South African investigative journalist Jacques Pauw describes in riveting detail how SARS allegedly assisted in sweeping President Zuma’s dirty tax under the rug.

SARS announced this morning it is investigating possible legal action against Pauw and the Sunday Times, who published an extract from the book under the title “Gangster Republic” (29 October).

“The revenue service unfortunately can’t dispute these accusations as it is not in the position to publish the correct information.”

An excerpt reads: “Legally, Zuma owed millions of rands in tax on the fringe benefits that accrued to him because of these upgrades. He has always maintained that they were security-related and that he didn’t ask for them. He argued he was therefore not responsible for any taxes. As the extent of the upgrades became more apparent in 2012, the tax effects on Zuma became equally clear.”

SARS expressed its concern about “the publication of confidential taxpayer information in contravention of Chapter 6 of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) 28 of 2011, especially Section 69 which prohibits the disclosure of taxpayer information by a SARS official or former SARS official”. Moreover, SARS explains, “Section 69(3) of the TAA prohibits the disclosure of confidential taxpayer information outside judicial processes and in particular an Order of the High Court.”

It is thus “duty-bound” to address this violation, along with the false allegation against Commissioner Tom Moyane that he is aiding President Zuma in avoiding tax obligations.

SARS further labels the piece a “predictable narrative” and, in short, views the book and the article as a criminal offence. “SARS is deeply concerned about the apparent bias, irresponsible and mischievous tone of the report which seeks to cast aspersions on the character of Commissioner Moyane,” it says. “This narrative is untruthful, disingenuous and outrightly irresponsible.”

Still quoting SARS, “Another fact that proves that the book and the newspaper report are devoid of any factual substance is that all former SARS officials mentioned in the article voluntarily resigned from SARS.”

The revenue collector unfortunately can’t dispute these accusations as it is not in the position to publish “the correct information”, it says. It would be unlawful to do so and “breach the relationship of trust between SARS and taxpayers”.