The South African Revenue Service (Sars) said on Monday that it was concerned about recent reports of people purporting to be its employees entering premises of taxpayers to seize equipment, allegedly as part of a lifestyle audit.

Sars said that its search and seizure operations were strictly governed, and that the people who committed this crime were not Sars officials.

“Sars officials do use search and seizure operations to obtain evidence if there are reasonable grounds to suspect non-compliance or tax crimes. However, a search and seizure operation by SARS is a criminal investigations tool and is not used to conduct lifestyle audits,” it said in a statement.

“Sars wishes to reassure citizens that search and seizure operations conducted by Sars officials are conducted in a transparent way and in accordance with strict legislation and procedures.”

Sars said that such operations were often conducted with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS).

A search and seizure operation by Sars officials requires a judge or magistrate to issue a warrant of execution. The warrant is based on reasonable grounds that the operation would provide evidence to prove suspected transgressions.

Sars said the application for the warrant must clearly spell out if evidence is likely to be found on the premises specified in the application. The information supporting the application must be provided under oath or solemn declaration.