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Lawmaker Urges Parliament to Consider Public Views on Controversial Income Tax Bill

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Parliament of Zimbabwe

Parliament of Zimbabwe

Outreach meetings on Zimbabwe’s Income Tax Bill continued in Masvingo on Thursday with the chairman of the parliamentary budget and finance committee, Paddy Zhanda, saying the Bill is being rushed through parliament without considering the people's views.

The parliamentary portfolio committee on budget, finance and investment promotion is on a countrywide outreach programme collecting people’s views on the proposed law that has been criticised by some stakeholders.

Zhanda said the outreach was an exercise in futility as parliament has been rubber-stamping laws as ministers continue to take the House of Assembly for granted, unwilling to incorporate sensible contributions from the public besides just noting the committee’s reports.

Zhanda said in a normal situation, views from the outreach should be incorporated into the bill but says this has not happened in the past and will not happen next week when the Bill will be read in parliament for the second time Tuesday.

Zhanda told Studio 7 parliamentarians’ right to interrogate ministers and proposed laws has long been taken away from them.

He adds the current system has to change, saying it is not healthy for the nation to have a parliament that just rubberstamps what the executive wants. He believes that this is not healthy for the nation.

Zhanda said his committee has the weekend to prepare its report on the outreach exercise and seek a meeting with Finance Minister Tendai Biti on Monday ahead of the Bill’s second reading, which does not leave space for any changes to the proposed law as Mr. Biti is anxious to have the Bill passed into law before the current session of parliament expires.

The Income Tax Bill will replace the country’s old taxation system, which according to some experts, has outlived its usefulness and does not meet international standards.

It was a mixed bag in Masvingo on Thursday where some supported the Bill while others said it needs to be fine-tuned in a number of areas.

Association of Certified Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe tax manager Marvelous Tapera welcomed the Bill but said Mr. Biti should review a number of clauses in the Bill.

Tapera said mining companies and others that are being forced to donate money for community share ownership trusts under the country's indigenization laws should be exempt from paying tax for a while.

The Income Tax Bill, which is a residence-based taxation model, has been criticised by stakeholders in Mutare and other areas where the parliamentary committee has been conducting the outreach exercise.

It remains to be seen whether the finance minister will next week incorporate the changes that have been proposed by tax experts, members of the public and other stakeholders.

For perspective on the proposed tax Bill VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo turned to John Mufukare, director of the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe, and Hammond Des Fontaine, partner with Deloitte and Touche Zimbabwe.

Des Fontaine said the fundamental change in the Bill will be the taxation of Zimbabweans throughout the world.

He said the implementation of the “resident clause” would be a major deal for Zimbabwe.

“Administratively this is going to make things very complicated in terms of implementation, as a lot of it might go in a circle.”

Des Fontaine questioned whether Zimbabwe would be logistically capable to tax someone living abroad, or even by law exempt from “double taxing.”

Mufukare said the Bill failed to meet a significant sector in Zimbabwe, generating millions of dollars which is the informal sector.

“We are in the middle of a vicious liquidity crunch and the economy really cannot grow at the rate that it would have been able to grow as long as we have this lack of money driving it.”

He said the Bill, which spreads thin those who are always paying taxes, misses its mark in bringing in the informal sector and allowing friendly practices for taxation.
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