By Ndakaziva Majaka
HARARE – The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has threatened to “descend” heavily on all tax defaulters who ignore the granted amnesty to regularise their outstanding tax bills.
Gershem Pasi, the Zimra commissioner-general said the national tax collector was “very disappointed” by the amount of applications received, as most defaulters did not respond to the amnesty.
“We are not happy with the response, we had thought this was an opportunity for defaulters to approach the authority with payment plans but most have decided not to, which is very disappointing,” he said.
“To date we have received 1 471 applications which is surprising because Zimra is owed over $1 billion in unpaid taxes so when the amnesty period expires we shall extend no mercy,” Pasi added.
Last year, government made a provision for tax defaulters to approach the authority with payments plans. The initial provision granted a limited tax amnesty for a period of six months, with effect from October 1, 2014, but was extended to end of March 31, 2015.
The amnesty is in respect to any non-compliance which occurred during the period beginning February 1, 2009 to September 30, 2014, according to Zimra.
However, issues already under investigation are not covered by the amnesty.
Of late, Pasi has come under severe pressure from business, which feels his tax collection system is radical and stymies business growth, a concession also made by President Robert Mugabe during the official opening of the 8th Parliament last year.
But, Pasi said Zimra would not relent on its mission to recover and collect outstanding dues especially in the aftermath of the general amnesty extended to defaulters who, under normal, circumstances would be prosecuted.
Zimra is accused of throttling business and in worst cases, closing them down because of garnish orders, which Pasi said were not a form of punishment to business, but an instrument to recover what was owed.
“We are aware that businesses are struggling and we understand that. We do not want to kill them, but want them to come clean. So far, the authority has collected $468,53 million against a target of $542 million, the first quarter is always slow, but tax obligations have to be honoured,” he said.
Pasi also said citizens had to pay their taxes to earn the right to demand accountability from government on how their monies are used, while dismissing suggestions that the country needed a Ports Authority to take care of borders as “an unnecessary cost”.
The taxman also threatened a vehicle blitz targeting cars that got into the country through corruption, without paying duty. Daily News