Post owes K27m in unpaid taxes

THE Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and the Zambia Police yesterday raided the Post Newspapers Limited offices along Bwinjimfumu Road for avoiding to meet its tax obligations which has over the years accumulated to a whopping K26,856,230.91 in unpaid taxes.

The combined team of ZRA and police officers arrived at the Post Newspaper offices in Rhodespark area around 0900hours and immediately sealed off the administration offices to conduct an inventory of assets in an attempt to recover more than K27 million in tax default.

In desperation, the Post Newspaper has pleaded with the ZRA to settle its more than K26 billion (unrebased) unpaid taxes in Income tax, Pay as You Earn and Value Added Tax (VAT) through its monthly sales, claiming that the newspaper was making in excess of K4, million in its circulation.

But the newspaper prevented the full search to be conducted by obtaining a court order to stop the ZRA and the Zambia police from conducting the search that was meant to establish whether the newspaper had been compliant with tax laws.

High Court Judge In-Charge Isaac Chali granted the stay yesterday afternoon.

In its notice of application for leave, the Post Newspaper has also accused Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda of harbouring a vendetta against it and that the raid was meant to fix the newspaper company.

The newspaper has also complained that ZRA has refused its proposed payment plans in their several correspondences and meetings, adding that its suggested payment plan of settling the principal amount in K2 million instalments was equally rejected.

The Post Newspaper through its advocates Nchito and Nchito argued that the decision by ZRA to disallow the newspaper to pay its tax obligations through instalments was irrational.

Recently, ZRA commissioner general Berlin Msiska sounded a warning that the authority would soon embark on prosecuting companies that had been evading and avoiding meeting their tax obligations. As the search was about to start Post Newspaper general manager Sheik Chifuwe attempted to perform a scare trick by trying to ram into the gate that was closed by alert police officers who realised some senior officials were planning to sneak out of the premises.

Mr Chifuwe almost got into a physical confrontation with the police and threatened to break a Muvi Television camera that was being used to film the showdown.

He was so angry that at one point attempted to drive and ram into the gate but on second thoughts, he abandoned the idea and reversed to park his white Prado registration number ABV 5417.

“He was ordering us to stop filming and threatened to break the camera I was using,” Mr Musokotwane explained.

This was the first time that the Post Newspaper has felt the wrath of the law, in the current PF government that assumed power in 2011.   According to a letter from ZRA dated September 1, 2014, the largest private media organisation was cited for not remitting taxes to the revenue authority from the time the Patriotic Front (PF) formed government in 2011. And efforts to get a comment from Mr Chifuwe failed as he evaded the journalists who waited for him for a comment.

ZRA officials could also not disclose details of the operation that lasted about five hours, and remained tight lipped despite efforts to inquire from them.

Meantime, one ZRA officer identified as Trust Malambo was spotted recording registration numbers of all the vehicles which were parked inside the premises, with particular interest in both front and rear numbers respectively.

Recently, the ZRA issued notices to all defaulters including the Daily Nation Newspaper over the various amounts owed to the institution in unpaid taxes.