Uganda: Ura Closes Several Businesses Over Tax Arrears

18 October 2019

Uganda revenue authority (URA) has closed several wholesale and retail businesses in Soroti district town over unpaid tax arrears amounting to millions of shillings.

The exercise conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively saw key businesses like hotels, wholesale shops and supermarkets closed and manned by soldiers, as the owners rushed to clear their arrears.

Among the closed premises are OM hardware and supermarket, Golden Ark Hotel, Landmark Hotel, Teso shopping mall among other retail shops in the town.

Mr Stephen Mutabazi, general operation manager OM supermarkets said the URA officials accompanied by armed personnel in military outfit took them by surprise and closed the premises.

"The enforcement team surrounded the counter while others rushed behind the shelves to push customers out of the supermarket, they told us we had tax arrears to pay," he explained.

"We were all shocked, we thought we had been raided by armed robbers dressed in military uniform because they had not introduced themselves and some of our clients ran behind the shelves to take cover in fear before they were all pushed out of the supermarket," he added.

The affected business owners were then referred to URA offices for further discussions.

By Wednesday evening only Teso shopping mall had been reopened while OM supermarkets and Land mark hotel were still closed with URA seals and letters of notice pinned on the doors.

Mr Mutabazi said whose arrears amount to over Shs100m claimed that the money was way too much and yet he had always filed his returns on the prompt.

Mr Faustino Etilu, the proprietor of Teso shopping mall on his side acknowledged that his premises were closed due to laxity in reporting returns in time.

"I had not filed my returns since the financial year ended," he confessed.

"They wanted Shs 20m on rental tax and for them if you don't report irregularities in your business they will assume you are making huge sums of money," he said.

However, the assistant commissar public and corporate affairs at URA, Mr Vincent Sarema, said it's their mandate as a tax body to ensure that all business personnel comply with their tax obligations as stipulated under section 39 of the tax Act.

He reiterated that the authority will continue to inconvenience and embarrass entrepreneurs who are not compliant.

"If they don't want to be inconvenienced and embarrassed, let them start by meeting their obligations and filling their returns on time," he added.

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