Aspects of confidentiality: A request from SARS
One of the most commonly recurring issues that feature on the MPS advice line is confidentiality. In each edition of Casebook we will highlight an unusual scenario, at the heart of which lies a difficult dilemma around confidentiality.
Knowing when it is permitted to breach patient confidentiality is a classic dilemma faced by clinicians worldwide, and is a common source of queries to the MPS advice line. In this case, a member was approached by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for extensive details about a patient. These details included the patient’s name and contact information.
The member contacted MPS’s helpline for advice on his obligations in this situation. Advice In terms of the South African income tax legislation, in particular the Tax Administration Act and the Income Tax Act, SARS is entitled to request (and receive) information in regard to any “taxable event”, in respect of an identified or “objectively identifiable” taxpayer. As SARS sent our member a formal request in terms of the relevant legislation, we advised him that he was, therefore, obliged to provide them with the name and contact details that were requested.