Media gagged in tax appeal cases

HARARE - The High Court has barred journalists from covering the on-going tax appeal cases, with top South African lawyer Adrian de Bourbon threatening to sue a State-controlled newspaper over a report it carried in yesterday’s edition.

High Court judge Samuel Kudya yesterday asked journalists to vacate the court in a matter in which some companies are contesting the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)’s  garnishee orders for outstanding taxes.

Following de Bourbon’s application, Kudya noted that according to the new Constitution, tax payers’ appeal cases have to be heard in private.

De Bourbon is representing one of the companies targeted by the garnishee orders.

The taxes are running into millions of dollars and the Fiscal Court of Appeal started hearing the matter yesterday.

Faced with a dwindling revenue base due to massive company closures and lack of activity in the economy, Zimra has been following up on several defaulting companies, before imposing garnishee orders on their bank accounts, in a move aimed at recovering outstanding taxes.

Kudya was yesterday handling matters brought by three companies that owe Zimra a collective amount of close to $10 million.

The appeals have been filed by Zimbabwe Leaf Tobacco Company, Blanket Mine and Steelmakers.

Several companies have since filed appeals with the Fiscal Court of Appeal, while some are waiting for the Constitutional Court’s ruling in their bid to stop Zimra.

Gershem Pasi, Zimra’s commissioner-general, told Parliament recently that his organisation was currently working flat out to ensure that everyone in the country — especially the rich who are notorious for tax evasion — was up-to-date with their tax obligations.

This follows claims that the country has lost nearly $85 million in unpaid taxes from State enterprises, parastatals and local authorities between 2009 and 2013.

Zimbabwe is ranked 13 on the list of African countries losing tax revenue and estimates believe that the country lost close to $12 billion over the past three decades in uncollected tax.

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