19 December 2012

Zambia: Clip Tax Evasion Now!


THE siphoning of K40 trillion from Zambia over a period of 10 years smacks of deep-rooted greed and dishonesty by some multi-national mining giants that have continued pleading innocence each time tax evasion has been brought to the fore.

Though multi-national firms in the mining industry have been preaching elaborate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, some of these initiatives are cosmetic and fail to satisfy the local communities.

Mining firms, by any measure, make super profits and are capable of contributing more to the national Treasury as well as to the communities in which they operate.

However, we must point out that not all multi-national companies are involved in tax evasion and corruption.

In the light of the disclosure by the Washington-based group Global Financial Integrity (GFI) about corruption and tax evasion over the past decade, the Government must engage the mining firms on tax regime and general operations.

Zambia should craft a tax regime that will be able to capture sufficient revenue from the mining firms without stifling production and profit levels.

The country's poverty levels can go down if the tax regime was worked out to seal all loop-holes that give rise to evasion.

Yes, it is clear that tax evasion is an illegality under the current disposition and certainly moral issues are at play for genuine mining enterprises who should at all times maintain integrity and honesty.

The country is richly endowed with mineral resources and holds about six per cent of the world's known copper reserves.

Apart from that, Zambia is Africa's largest producer of copper.

But it is sad that the majority of citizens particularly those in the countryside live in abject poverty to the extent that some families are surviving on about $1 a day.

The sad tale as contained in the GFI report indicates that lost money is equivalent to almost half of Zambia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is traced to multi-national copper mining operations.

Ironically, these are the same firms that negotiated incentives such as tax holidays under the MMD administration.

Going by Finance Deputy Minister's estimation, closing the loopholes could generate Zambia at least an extra $1.5billion a year.

Therefore, the Government needs to sustain a fine-tuned revenue collection system able to deliver close to 80 per cent of the required resources to the national Treasury.

Of course, the Government's main source of revenue is tax in various forms with the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) always on the spotlight to ensure sufficient revenue for the country to fulfil its obligations.

In any economic disposition, tax administration, compliance, and enforcement are critical as gaps in any of these elements could expose a country's national Budget to shocks.

Although ZRA is working towards implementing tax policies which are equitable, transparent and in the interest of taxpayers and other stakeholders, there is need to do more like adjusting laws relating to tax administration.

A Taxpayer Charter has been developed and guarantees that a client should receive the best standards of service, not only once but every time one deals with ZRA.

But it now remains with multi-national companies to be honest and compliant in all the dealings because they are enjoying super profits from the country's natural resources.

Zambia and other developing countries should clip illegal capital flight and tax evasion at all costs.

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