After mass arrests of shopkeepers last month by the group of combined forces, some shopkeepers are being asked by the combined forces to pay a tax sum of D20,500 before they could start operating. This reporter went to the shopkeepers to verify the information and find out more about the development.
A general goods shopkeeper based at the Latrikunda/Piccadilly roundabout , who is a West African national, paid a total sum of D16,600. She disclosed that she paid D3,000 to KMC for payment of General Trading Licence and D13,600 to Gambia Revenue Authority in the following manner: Miscellaneous Tax D100, Business Registration fee D500, Personal Income Tax of D3, 000 and Expatriate Payroll Tax D10,000. All these taxes, she said, were paid in the mode of cash.
The shop sells goods like rice, oil, onion, etc. She lamented the high cost of her business registration and said her shop is too small for such huge tax charges. At the Park near the Buffer Zone where car spare parts are sold, one Nigerian national who preferred anonymity, said he was arrested by the combined forces last month on tax allegations.
He said he first paid D1,000 to KMC before his arrest and later went to GRA to negotiate with them about the taxes, saying he ended up paying D14,000. He informed this paper that his shop is newly opened. According to him, he has to ask his people in Nigeria to send him money so he could clear the bills. "Many of these shops are closed down because they do not have money to pay what they are asked to pay. Some are selling their materials to close their shops and do something else. This is really discouraging," he said.
The shopkeeper further added that some shops' total asset value is not up to D10, 000 and that asking such shop owners to pay over D20, 000 as tax does not make sense. He said shops are asked to pay sums ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 dalasi. The distraught shopkeeper said he is still reporting on bail to the combined forces at Holgam detention centre.
Another spare parts shopkeeper, a Senegalese, also said he was arrested few days before the Koriteh and was kept in police custody for over a week. He said he later paid D5,000 to KMC and D15,500 to Gambia Revenue Authority GRA for the various taxes. He claimed GRA charges D15,500 from those classified as foreigners and D5, 000 from those classified as Gambian nationals. He spoke about the high costs of tax and said it is really not helping either the businesspersons or the general public.
Foroyaa contacted an official of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) regarding the amount of 15,000 to 20,000 dalasi charged on shopkeepers but he simply said they (GRA) are not responsible for the arrest. He said operation Bulldozer is responsible for arresting shopkeepers.
The Police spokesperson, ASP David Kujabi, was contacted to shed light on the issue, but he said since Operation Bulldozer is a combined security force and is not under the purview of the Gambia police force, he is not in a position to throw light on their activities.
However, according to a document from the GRA on Value Added Tax, small businesses are exempted from registration and are not charged VAT on their sales, but must pay VAT if their purchases are from registrants.