STATE House has described allegations by the Post Newspaper that it had instructed the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) to close down the newspaper as preposterous and outrageous in the most extreme.
State House has however said the refusal by the Post to honour its tax obligations to ZRA was a legal and moral issue that would never go away until it was settled and that the presidency was not going to intervene against or on the side of the newspaper.
Special Assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda said it was not surprising that the Post was accusing State House of using ZRA to close them down because their behaviour was consistent with the newspaper’s well-known strategy of wanting to induce self-pity to attract public sympathy.
Mr Chanda stated that State House found it unreasonable that the tax debt the Post had accumulated as a result of defaulting had deliberately been misrepresented as an act of punishment against the newspaper.
He told journalists at State House yesterday that when ZRA raided the Post, President Edgar Lungu called for an explanation from Finance Deputy Minister Christopher Mvunga and the Head of State was informed that the action by the tax authority was a routine operation.
Mr Chanda said Mr Mvunga told President Lungu that ZRA had the mandate to collect taxes from any individual and corporate bodies regardless of status and therefore the Post Newspaper was not an exception and the ZRA had no reason to exempt the newspaper from paying taxes. “State House wishes to state that allegations by the owners of the Post Newspapers that we instructed the ZRA to close them down as preposterous and outrageous in the extreme. But this behaviour is not surprising because it is consistent with the newspaper’s well-known strategy of always wanting to induce self-pity to attract public sympathy. In this regard, State House finds it unreasonable that a debt between the Post and the ZRA must be misrepresented as an act of punishment. ZRA collects taxes from any individual and body corporate regardless of their status and the Post is not an exception and ZRA has no reason to exempt the newspaper from paying tax,” he said.
Mr Chanda recalled that the Daily Nation was last year summoned by ZRA over a disputed tax bill and the newspaper held negotiations with the tax authority to allow them settle the debt and that the newspaper complied without accusing anyone of wanting to close them down.
He said similarly, the Zambia Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia opened negotiations with ZRA over their tax bills and the two newspapers have since ensured that they do not default on new taxes.
He said although State House enjoyed a good relationship with the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) that did not mean that Football House was exempt from paying tax.
“State House has no problems with Hot FM radio. In fact, the proprietors of the radio station are personally known to us but when ZRA tendered a huge tax bill against them a few months ago, the station paid without dragging innocent people into their debt. The matter the Post is facing is a legal and moral issue which will never go away until it is settled. State House will not intervene against or on the side of the Post in this matter and no amount of falsehoods on their part will move State House to stop ZRA from collecting the taxes owed to the Treasury,” Mr Chanda said.
And ZRA has assured the public that it operated independently and without political interference or any form of bias at any level.
In a short but terse statement to the Daily Nation yesterday, ZRA said all taxpayers should comply with tax laws and pay their taxes on time to avoid penalties, interest, enforcement action and prosecution.