Yesterday, Thursday,12th September,2013 dozens of business persons in the main Serekunda Market were arrested in the ongoing exercise by the combined force of security personnel, including the Police, Immigration and others, accompanying the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) officials to enforce the collection or settlement of tax liabilities by the business operators. A shopkeeper at the said market, who preferred anonymity, confirmed to this reporter the arrest of shop owners by the said team. "GRA officials and the security personnel came here asking the traders about the payment of tax and if someone is found not to have paid the said tax, the person will be put in a vehicle and then taken away. This is how many of my colleagues have been taken away," he explained.
According to him, those who were taken away include both Gambians and non-nationals. "As long as you don't pay tax, they will take you," he added. He also said that Gambians are being asked to pay a yearly tax of D5,000, while the non-Gambians are demanded to pay more than D10,000. Lamin Fadera, a shop owner, lamented the state of business in the country, adding that the tax burden on them has compounded the situation. "The payment of the annual income tax of D5,000 is what most of us cannot afford. We live from hand to mouth, as our daily sales mostly go for fish money expenses and other maintenance needs of the family.
It is always difficult for us at the end of the month to pay shop rent as nothing is saved for the purpose," he explained. According to him, he had even closed his shop some months ago and only re-opened it last month as things were too much for him regarding the demands of the family and the lack of any source of income. "The dependency on me is so high that I cannot afford to stay at home and not earning any income, however little this may be," said Fadera. He expressed his consternation on the ongoing arrest of traders who are not in the position of paying the amounts being asked for tax by state officials.
This reporter has observed the closure of many shops which hitherto were operating before the advent of the tax payment enforcement exercise. When he enquired from other shopkeepers or people in the neighbourhood, they attribute the closure to the ongoing exercise. Foroyaa, however, has to confirm from concerned shop owners why they have closed their shops. Some of the shops put on display placards on the doors apoligising to the customers for the temporary closure of business operations.