THE POST Newspapers yesterday surprised the Supreme Court when they argued that Zambia Revenue Authority director general should not involve himself in matters of tax collection despite the law providing for his intervention.
This was after Supreme Court Justice Hilda Kaoma, sitting with Justices Jones Chinyama and Michael Musonda, challenged Post Newspapers’ legal counsel Nchima Nchito, SC, of Nchito and Nchito Associates, over the appeal which referred to a matter that had already received judgment before the same court.
The Post Newspapers challenged the authority of the ZRA commissioner general’s action to take over communication between the newspaper company and the commissioner-domestic
taxes over a K26 million debt in unpaid taxes. Mr Nchito argued that although the court had previously advised against the success of such an appeal, his clients were of the view that the court must still make its own pronouncements in the matter.
“There is a problem with the Income Tax Act which this court needs to pronounce itself. And I did bring to the attention of the court that time that we might be placed in an unfortunate situation but I believe there are important issues raised in this appeal that this court needs to determine,” he said.
He explained that of particular importance was the issue relating to the powers of the commissioner general provided for in Section 7(1) which allowed him to delegate his powers in contrast against his powers under the Act to hear appeals decided upon by officers who have decided on his behalf.
Mr Nchito requested the court to make its pronouncements to grant finality to the question as to whether officers acting on behalf of the commissioner general could have their decisions again heard on the appeal by the same commissioner general.
Earlier, the Lusaka High Court threw out as outrageous an application to nullify the ZRA commissioner general Berlin Msiska’s demand for full payment of K26,856,230 in tax obligations from The Post Newspapers Limited.
Mr Nchito said as a matter of principle, the appellant should have been given a chance to be heard, instead of the commissioner general’s demand for full settlement of the money owed.
And Mr Justice Chinyama wondered how the Post failed to take up the matter with the Tax Appeals Tribunal, which was suitable to hear such matters, to which Mr Nchito replied that the tribunal was not yet in existence in 2014, (formerly the Revenue Appeals Tribunal).
And in their submissions, ZRA legal team led by Ms Diana Goramota submitted that the commissioner general was the primary implementer of the Income Tax Act in the country as he was the one in charge of tax issues.
Ms Goramota submitted that the Income Tax Act clearly stated that the commissioner general was the primary administrator of the issues related to tax in Zambia.
She said Section 7 provides that he had the powers to delegate his duties to officers within his jurisdiction, and that he was responsible for carrying out his duties.
She said it was vested in the Income Tax Act that the commissioner general should be the administrator in any tax matter, and that there was nothing wrong with the Act as it confirms his authority against the appeal before court.
“Any person aggrieved by the commissioner general should appeal to the tribunal.
“There is nowhere in the Act that says the appeal should be mounted on the commissioner general, because at that moment, the appellant had the right to appeal against the commissioner general’s report or decision,” she said.
Justice Kaoma reserved judgment to a date to be announced.