THE Tax Appeals Tribunal overstepped its jurisdiction and mandate when it overruled a Supreme Court judgment which ordered that the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) should recover its tax debts owed by the Post Newspaper to the tax man.
ZRA has maintained that the Post Newspaper owed the authority millions of Kwacha in unpaid taxes and any appeal against its recovery had no effect on the demand notice or the warrant of distress currently in effect.
ZRA legal counsel Diana Goramoto said the Supreme Court, the highest court in the Zambia, already gave guidance on the recovery of tax assessments, which must be paid in accordance with the Income Tax Act provisions.
Ms Goramoto said in fact, the matter was prematurely before the Tax Appeals Tribunal because the Post did not exhaust the procedures outlined in the Income Tax Act that appeals should be based on a decision by the Commissioner General.
Ms Goramoto argued that there was no decision made by the Commissioner General which could have compelled the Post Newspaper to appeal at the Tax Appeals Tribunal.
“We wish to emphasise that in the current case there is no decision by the Commissioner General that would allow the appellant to be before this tribunal. There is an amount and the appellant lodged a formal objection but there ought to be a decision by the Commissioner General which is not the case. The case is prematurely before this tribunal as the appellant rushed to the tribunal before the Commissioner General could make a decision,” she said.
Ms Goramoto said in accordance with the law, after tax assessment, the amount was due and payable once demand notice was served.
“The Supreme Court gave guidance that the Income Tax Act is very instructive, that the tax assessed becomes due when demand notice is served, in which case, the K53 million tax debts owed to ZRA was due on 15th June 2016.
“It was due and payable, notwithstanding any objection or an appeal, the assessed amount should be paid,” Ms Goramoto said.
This was at the Tax Appeals Tribunal interparty hearing yesterday over the Post Newspapers appeal against ZRA’s move to close the newspaper company’s offices and printing plant in a warrant of distress in an effort to recover K53 878 401.83 owed in unpaid taxes.
ZRA challenged the order of injunction issued by the Tribunal for the Post to take possession of locked up premises at Bwinjimfumu and the printing plant in the heavy industrial area following a warrant of distressed issued against the newspaper company.
She said the demand notice for the K53 878 401.83 was served on 15th June 2016 although there was formal objection lodged on 24th June 2016, before the commissioner general could hear and make a decision on the matter.
Earlier, Post Newspaper lawyers Nchima Nchito and Chisuwo Hamweela of Nchito and Nchito Associates explained that they had failed to comply with the order of injunction because ZRA made impossible for them.
Mr Nchito said despite directives by the Registrar of the Tax Appeals Tribunal Chola Shapi-Mutambo to comply with the order, ZRA continued to seize trucks belonging to the newspaper’s courier company.
For all we know, “trucks valued to the amount being claimed may have been seized. The respondent has also garnished the appellant’s bank accounts and we are not aware how much money has been seized through the process,” he said.