EARLY this year, my senior colleague, Haroon Ghumra and I decided that we would undertake a special write-up on the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).
This is given the important role the authority plays in helping to raise public revenue to finance any government’s agenda.
We, particularly, wanted to get a picture of how ready or unready the ZRA was in helping the ‘New Dawn’ government administration in coming up with locally-generated funds.
We realised that while the government could have splendid policies to deliver public services to its citizens and grow the economy, without an effective tax collector, that could be a tall order.
Therefore, on February 1, 2023 after a strenuous research period, we pushed in the query through the corporate communications manager’s office so that we could have information which would enable us churn out a two-or-three-part series of a special report.
Today’s column, therefore,
is dedicated towards the discussion of these issues.
Following Finance minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane’s announcement of a Tax Amnesty (TA) in the 2023 national budget we thought that was a topical issue.
Notably, the TA was initially scheduled to expire on March 31 this year.
We, therefore, chose to solicit for information from ZRA on the background, and rationale of the measure.
Given its importance, we would dedicate a lot of more questions and space on the subject than other topics.
We knew one would want to know who was eligible, what type of taxes were covered and the period it covered.
We equally thought readers would want to know who does not qualify for the amnesty, for instance, taxpayers under investigation and, perhaps, those with tax-related cases before courts of law.
Had there been enough publicity and sensitisation regarding TA and what internal measures had ZRA put in place to adequately deal with this additional work?
Those were other questions.
Since by then the measure had been in place for some time, it was also worthwhile to know what the response from taxpayers, both individuals and companies, had been so far.
The tax amnesty exercise was meant to help businesses and individuals deal with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic by scraping of all penalties and interest accrued on tax defaults up to September 30, 2022 once they settle their tax arrears.
More remarkable, we wanted to know whether ZRA was in a position to state how many people had applied for TA by then and how much money was collected from that.
The TA was later to be extended by another quarter to June 30.
But that was not before ZRA, away from the query, announced it had received nearly 8,000 applications under the exercise ahead of the then scheduled March-31 expiry.
ZRA director research and corporate strategy Ezekiel Phiri said 7, 775 applications were received as at March 22, 2023.
Mr Phiri said this in an interview on the sidelines of the media workshop on Tax Reporting in March.
As expected, most applications came from Lusaka and the Copperbelt Province.
From the TA we moved on to ZRA operations as we tried to find out in how many towns ZRA has offices.
Similarly, we wanted to know how many customer services centres ZRA had.
For instance, Lusaka has one at Cosmopolitan Mall and another one at East Park Mall.
Wary of the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 on revenue collection, we wanted to know how ZRA fared during the pre and post COVID-19 era.
To quantify that, we wanted figures of revenues received in the last three years that is towards the budgets for 2020, 2021 and 2022.
What about malpractices, was the smuggling of goods still an area of concern and what was being done, for instance?
Note that a couple of months after that time, Zambia, especially the Copperbelt, was hit by an artificial shortage of mealie meal caused by this recurrent scourge.
Another concern is under-declaration of goods and wrong classification, by some importers, to avoid paying the correct duty.
On that, we thought that measures that the authority had put in place to detect this will be important.
We then moved on to the issue of the Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN) which has become a requirement when making the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) monthly returns.
We had wanted to know what the public response had been to the requirement that PAYE returns must include TPIN for all employees, since it was introduced.
The Commissioner General before then had announced that ZRA would this year undergo structural reforms to enhance domestic revenue collection.
Therefore, we sought an elaboration and explanation on what that would entail.
On ZRA’s Corporate social responsibility (CSR), we wanted to know how much importance the authority attaches to that and details of donations made over the past one year or so.
As a way of summing up, we wanted to know how ZRA viewed this year in terms of the prospects for 2023, the targets in revenue collection and the possibility of meeting them.
Since we have not received the ZRA response up to now we thought of making do with what we had.
For comments call: 0955 431442, 0977 246099, 0964 742506 or e-mail: