Case CCT 208/17 
[2018] ZACC 11
Judgement Date: 25 April 2018

Media Summary of Judgment

The following explanatory note is provided to assist the media in reporting this case and is not binding on the Constitutional Court or any member of the Court.

Today the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in an application for leave to appeal against an order of the Supreme Court of Appeal. The main dispute between the parties concerned the interpretation of sections 8(5) and 11(2)(n) of the Value Added Tax Act. The applicants, the South African Red Cross Air Mercy Service Trust (Trust) and the respondent the Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service (CSARS) disagreed about whether services rendered by the Trust qualified for a zero-rating in respect of Value Added Tax (VAT). The parties also disputed the extent to which a court may have regard to the interpretation of legislation adopted by CSARS. CSARS was both in charge of administering the implementation of the VAT Act and the respondent in the case.

The Trust is a non-profit organisation approved as a public benefit organisation in terms of section 30 of the Income Tax Act. It is registered as a VAT vendor. The Trust provides aero-medical services. It has agreements with various provincial departments of health and renders a comprehensive aero-medical service on behalf of these departments. The service includes specialised intensive care, support and transfer of patients to and from hospitals, medical rescue services, air ambulance services and training and support to health workers.

The Constitutional Court, in a unanimous judgment penned by Froneman J decided, without the need for an oral hearing, to refuse the application for leave to appeal. Deference to an administrative body’s own interpretation of the meaning of a statute which it is responsible for implementing should be avoided, particularly when the administrative body is party to the litigation. However, the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision was based on an objective and independent interpretation of the relevant sections of the VAT Act. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court held that the application had no real prospect of success and that it was not in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal.

 

The Full judgment here.