Friday, December 11, 2015

(THE POST) It’s not taxes they’re after

From The Post:

(THE POST ZAMBIA) It’s not taxes they’re after
By Editor
Updated: 11 Dec,2015 ,06:11:04

The Zambia Revenue Authority yesterday obtained a search warrant from the subordinate court to inspect, take possession or make copies of documents and ICT equipment, business records, purchase and sales daybooks, cash books and other account books, purchase invoices and sales invoices, annual accounts, bank statements and other banking records, VAT account, personal records, documents, diaries of directors, import documents, desktop computers, laptops, servers, etc, and any other such documents and ICT equipment related to the business or operations of The Post that they believe were used by the company to evade the payment of VAT and Income Tax.

It requires little intelligence, if a little is all one has, to realise that this is not a case of tax evasion but of something else. This company has been in existence for more than 24 years, paying its tax obligations. It is extremely malicious and unfair for the Zambia Revenue Authority to insinuate in any way that The Post is involved or could be involved in tax evasion. Tax evasion is a criminal offence and this newspaper, unlike some other newspapers in this country, is not run by criminals or ex-convicts. Tax evasion is knowingly breaking the law to reduce a tax liability by the deliberate concealing of income or the false claiming of allowances, deductible expenses and so on and so forth. This differs from tax avoidance, which is the process of arranging a taxpayer’s affairs in such a way that he can, within the law, reduce the amount of tax payable. And every taxpayer is entitled, if he can, to arrange his affairs so that the tax attaching under the appropriate Acts is less than it otherwise would be. If he succeeds in ordering them so as to secure the result, then however unappreciative the revenue authority or his fellow taxpayers may be of his ingenuity, he cannot be compelled to pay an increased tax. No taxpayer in this country is under the smallest obligation, moral or otherwise, so to arrange his legal relation to his business, or to his property as to enable the inland revenue to put the largest possible shovel into his stores. But The Post is neither involved in tax evasion nor tax avoidance.

Anyone looking for any evidence of tax evasion from The Post will never find any because there is none. We don’t engage in criminal activities. Mistakes, we can make but not criminal activities. If they want to find cases of tax evasion on the part of The Post, they have to trump them up. And we will not be surprised if they did this because they have shown strange desperation to fix The Post. It is not tax they are after, it is fixing The Post they aiming for. They simply want to paralyse the operations of The Post and consequently close it. Business came to a standstill yesterday. They paralysed the operations of the newspaper and no meaningful business could be conducted. Income was lost. They tried to search documents in files and look at computer records, but they were not making sense. They had made up their minds from the beginning to go away with the computers. What happens when they take away the computers of a business in today’s world? They have literally stopped the business from operating. That is the net effect. And the computers they are taking, what guarantee do we have that they will not tamper with them or even attempt to plant things on them? These are clearly acts of desperate people trying to do desperate things.

Why are they in such a hurry to fix The Post? There are matters in court which need to be resolved; why can’t they wait until these matters are completely resolved?

Again, we can say it with our heads high that The Post is not a criminal organisation run by criminals. And whatever has been done here has been done with sufficient honour and integrity. Yes mistakes, we can make but not criminal acts of evading taxes.

And what is also shocking is that the Zambia Revenue Authority team yesterday came with a video camera trying to film the proceedings. For what? Just when did tax investigations become an issue of Zambia Revenue Authority publicity? But this is exactly what the Zambia Revenue Authority has been doing to The Post. Every communication with The Post has ended up into some newspapers working with the Zambia Revenue Authority. Which other taxpayer is Zambia Revenue Authority treating in this way other than The Post?

Of course, pronouncements on the issue of The Post have been made by senior ministers of this government and officers of the ruling Patriotic Front, including President Edgar Lungu himself. They have all threatened The Post with closure using the Zambia Revenue Authority. They have not hidden their intentions. The Zambia Revenue Authority is not an independent institution; it is a government agency that takes instructions from those in power. And if this government can manipulate and coerce people holding constitutional offices with security of tenure, what more Zambia Revenue Authority officers, whom they can hire and fire at will?

But the bells tolling for The Post today, if not silenced, will tomorrow toll for many others and eventually for the whole country.

As for The Post, they should not deceive themselves that we can be coerced into submission by acts like these. To silence The Post, they first have to close it. We are not criminals or wrongdoers who can be easily blackmailed into submission. We have seen what they have tried to do to the Director of Public Prosecutions with trumped-up charges after they failed to force him to resign. Let them come up with trumped-up charges of tax evasion against us and see where it will take them.

Again, it is not tax money they are looking for. It is The Post’s soul they are searching for. Look at the composition of the team that came to our offices yesterday! Were all those officers from the Zambia Revenue Authority? The answer is a categorical no. They were from some other offices, some other state agencies - ZICTA, the Drug Enforcement Commission and the intelligence services. What are they looking for that they could not tell us? They never told us what they are looking for! Why? But it is not very difficult to guess what they are looking for and what they are up to.
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