Zimra gets tough on tax compliance

HARARE - As government takes a zero tolerance approach on corruption, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has been instrumental in bringing to the fore cases of tax evaders.

Owing to these developments, our deputy chief reporter Tendai Kamhungira took time to speak to Zimra head of corporate communications Francis Chimanda on the organisation’s lifestyle audits, which are meant to weed out tax evaders

Q: There is a current blitz on corruption, how is Zimra complementing government in its drive to rid society of corrupt individuals and companies?

A: Zimra has a mature lifestyle audit programme, which has been in place for some time now. Zimra will continue conducting lifestyle audits on individuals and where expenditure does not match income, this will be flagged and appropriate action taken.

Zimra is ready to assist other enforcement agencies in conducting lifestyle audits. In terms of companies, Zimra will continue with on-going tax audits that help the authority recover outstanding taxes following the due process. In instances of criminal activities, the implicated companies will be prosecuted according to the law.

Q: Internal life audits of Zimra staff at one time were contentious, how have you overcome resistance or is there still some resistance by staff?

A: Lifestyle audits are part of the policies at Zimra, which become an integral component of every employee’s terms and conditions and therefore contractual.

The lifestyle audit policy is explained to each employee on joining the organisation as part of the induction and on-boarding process. Lifestyle audits on staff are part of our continuous security vetting processes and they are embedded in each employee’s employment contract.

Once employees sign the contract they expect to be audited at any time during the tenure of the contract.

Q: What measures are there at Zimra to deal with staff found to have lifestyles that are not compatible with their earnings and benefits?

A: Employees whose lifestyle audits show discrepancies will be taken through the disciplinary process, which may result in dismissal if they are proven guilty.
Furthermore, such cases will also be referred for criminal prosecution where there is sufficient evidence to prove a criminal case beyond reasonable doubt.

Q: For confidence building, the public expects Zimra to make its findings public, are you at a stage where you are about to do that — whether no one is in the wrong or otherwise?

A: In terms of section 34A of the Revenue Authority Act Chapter 23:11, Zimra is not permitted to make public the tax affairs of its clients or the outcome of any investigation pertaining to the tax affairs of its clients.

However, where cases are referred for prosecution pursuant to police investigations, and are therefore in the public domain, the public can always benefit from the wide coverage that such cases attract in the media.

Q: Zimbabweans have seen businesspeople — Frank Buyanga and Zunaid Moti — importing Bugati Veyron vehicles whose costs average 2 million Euros, did you establish their source of income and how much duty did they pay?

A: Zimra carries out its own independent investigations, which are risk-based, and intelligence driven. Once the tax obligations are established, they are privately communicated to the respective client, as Zimra is still bound by the preservation of secrecy as stated earlier.

Q: Are we likely to see more people being arraigned before the courts for noncompliance and tax evasion?

A: Deserving cases will be sent for prosecution.

Q: Coming to national lifestyle audits, Zimra promised to investigate politicians and business people, how far have you gone with the exercise?

A: No individual or class of people are exempt from lifestyle audits as long as the law lists them amongst those that can be audited.

Q: What message do you have for those who have been accumulating unexplained wealth but who are not yet within your sights in so far as tax compliance and lifestyle audits are concerned?

A: Zimra is running the Voluntary Compliance campaign that encourages its clients to willingly approach its offices to confirm or regularise their tax affairs. Zimra’s central message, “My taxes, my duties — building my Zimbabwe”, encourages clients to be responsible citizens that help build the economy by contributing towards their tax and duty obligations.

Q: When are you going to go public on your findings with regards to noncompliance and tax evasion by politicians and business people?

A: As stated earlier, by operation of law, Zimra is not permitted to make public the tax affairs of its clients or the outcome of any investigation into the tax affairs of its taxpayers.

Zimra will not go public with details of individuals be they politicians or business people or any tax paying individual, they remain clients/taxpayers and the Authority is bound by the law to preserve secrecy.

Q: Does your blitz include people of foreign origins and foreigners?

A: The law is clear that it may include a person outside Zimbabwe.

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