No-one tells us what to do – ZRA

PRESIDENT Michael Sata did not at any time instruct the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) to reverse the proposal to amend the Value Added Tax (VAT) Rule 18 contrary to insiniations by a named Newspaper that it took the intervention of the Head of State to withdraw the proposed amendment.

ZRA commissioner general Berlin Msiska has described the reports that President Sata stopped the implementation of the VAT Rule 18 which should have been effected on 8th September, 2014 as false.

And Dr Msiska has said it was immoral for companies to deliberately avoid meeting tax obligations in a country that was severely stressed with high poverty levels.

He said it was criminal for companies to evade paying tax and that ZRA would aggressively pursue all organisations that were evading and avoiding paying taxes and prosecute them.

Dr Msiska said ZRA was one of the government agencies that had been given mandate of collecting revenue on behalf of government.

Dr Msiska said ZRA decided to suspend the amendment of the law so as to allow for more consultations from stakeholders but the authority was still going to consider reviewing the law.

Responding to questions from journalists at a media workshop at Raddison Blu Hotel yesterday, Dr Msiska said there was no political interference in the operations of the ZRA and that it was ethically incorrect for media houses to fabricate stories without verifyimg their facts.

Dr Msiska said he was equally shocked to read that it was President Sata who had stopped the amendment of VAT Rule 18 stating that there had never been instructions from the Ministry of Finance to withdraw the proposed gazette.

On Wednesday, the Post reported that it was President Sata who had personally stopped the implementation of the amended VAT Rule 18, but Dr Msiska said the rule had not been gazetted and therefore could not have been law.

He said the authority was autonomous enough to effectively perform its function without getting instructions from politicians stating that ZRA was only following tax laws in its operations.

Dr Msiska said ZRA would continue to withhold the more than K4 billion VAT refunds until the controversies surrounding the Rule 18 was resolved.

“The Zambia Revenue Authority is one of the government agencies that has been given the autonomy to operate without political interference. We often hear that we are used to target certain individuals and institutions but do we need to wait for political instructions to remind companies that they are defaulting? Tax laws are very clear and if the law is broken, there are consequences. We have never received any instruction from President Sata asking us to atop the implementation of the VAT Rule 18. That is a lie and we could also ask you where this media house got that from. It is not fair to report false stories,” Dr Msika said.

He explained that there were concerns that were raised after ZRA published the proposed amendment and that it was only correct not to go ahead and gazette the proposal so that it could become law.

He said there was nothing wrong with the authority to have decided against going ahead with the amendment of the law because there was need to give stakeholders a chance to exhaust their concerns.

And Dr Msiska disclosed that ZRA had already shot above its annual target in revenue collection by more than K1.5 billion and that by the end of October, the authority would have collected K1.7 billion above its ceiling.

He said ZRA was given a target of K26 billion but that the authority had over performed by more than K1.5 billion as at September 2014.

“We have performed above target. Our target was K26 billion but we are already above by K1.5 billion as at September and by the end of October, we will have collected K1.7 billion,” he said.