THE business community has implored the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority ((Zimra) to simplify its taxation framework, scale up awareness efforts and harmonise key processes to foster improved compliance and enhanced Domestic Resource Mobilisation.
At a time when the country is focused on achieving an upper middle-income economy status by 2030, scaling up Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM), is critical in financing implementation of Government’s major socio-economic transformation programmes.
Economic experts say this is more significant for Zimbabwe, which is reeling under the yoke of sanctions while being saddled by international and domestic debt burden estimated at above US$10 billion.
Contributing during a taxation engagement breakfast meeting jointly organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) and Zimra in Bulawayo last Friday, players in the tourism industry expressed concern over some complications in the country’s tax system, which they said were frustrating smooth business operations and weakening voluntary compliance levels.
Among the major impediments raised are bottlenecks related to inadequate information, delayed turnover period, centralisation of key processes, multiplicity of charges with other State agencies that escalate the cost of doing business, as well as policy implementation delays.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president, Mr Farai Chimba, said while the tourism sector was a beneficiary of a number of tax rebates, the industry players were frustrated by information gaps related to the multiplicity of statutory instruments on taxation as well as delays in facilitation of refunds.
“Refunds processing takes too long while the announcement and gazetting of SIs must be synchronised so that there isn’t too much lag time between the two processes as Zimra doesn’t honour the period before gazetting, for example the exemptions,” he said.
Bulawayo businesswoman and Glen Lodge operator, Beauty Bhulu, complained that in some instances businesses are made to pay for tax for periods they are not supposed to pay for due to delays in harmonising policy pronouncements by Government and actual implementation by Zimra.
In unison, several business participants said they were being forced to travel all the way to Harare just to access tax registration and clearance forms, which is costly to them and urged Zimra to decentralise its systems and offer such services at least at provincial level.
“Why do I have to travel all the way to Harare just to get a tax form? Can’t Zimra decentralise its operations and have a one-stop-facility where we make all the payments at one go,” asked one of the participants.
Mr Cephas Shonhiwa, a tour operator based in Kariba claimed that over and meeting tax obligations, houseboat tourism operators, for instance, were being subjected to many statutory compliance requirements that essentially make it look like a “crime” to venture into the business.
His views were buttressed by a tour operator from Beitbridge who accused Zimra of delays in registering businesses for tax while subjecting the same operators to back-dated tax applications. The operators also urged the tax authority to decentralise its awareness programmes beyond Harare and Bulawayo so as to reach out to budding businesses in remote districts.
Another tourism business operator who only identified himself as Mr Matambisa said Government agencies including Zimra should harmonise their charges and be sensitive to overcharging enterprises as this cripples business growth.
Promise Ncube from Maleme Lodge said the taxation system in the country should be aligned with the ease of doing drive and be as simple as possible to a start-up operator.
“‘Zimra must consolidate on what is valid and disseminate the information to clients on time,” she said
Young entrepreneurs who attended the meeting also appealed for a simplified taxation framework that takes into account their business status saying some of the existing tax provisions were archaic and no longer in sync with global trends.
In response to the issues raised, Zimra Commissioner General, Ms Regina Chinamasa, said her team has taken note of the stakeholder concerns and pledged that the authority will swiftly take corrective measures to improve on turnaround time, especially.
She said as Zimra they were encouraged by the high public appetite for information and the need to utilise multiple communication channels to increase impact and urged businesses to utilise digital channels to access readily available information.
“We continue to engage and synchronise policy pronouncements and actual implementation in our operations bearing in mind that Zimra operates within the purview of legislation,” she said.
“It’s, therefore, imperative that we always gather to have honest discussions to find solutions to the challenges that the tourism sector faces as it seeks to comply with the country’s tax and customs laws, and this platform is the perfect one which sets the tone for other future engagements.”
Earlier in her official speech, Ms Chinamasa said the tourism sector has a huge potential in driving enhanced revenue generation for the economy and contributing to realisation of Vision 2030.
Article Source: The Chronicle