THE business community in Mutare has blamed the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) for the closure of several companies by imposing stiff penalties and garnisheeing their accounts forcing them to shut down.
Business executives last week told NewsDay on the sidelines of a business breakfast meeting in Mutare that Zimra’s action worked contrary to the urgent need for job creation and sustainable development.
They called on the authority to review the tax penalties and suspend the garnishing of their funds.
Simon Hukuimwe, an entrepreneur, said: “Zimra is instituting drastic garnish orders and attaching company assets of defaulting businesses. This is a very sad scenario that has led to many workers being thrown onto the streets.”
Secretary for Manicaland Business Forum (MBF), James Muusha, said Zimra’s actions had crippled the already struggling businesses.
“The government is preaching ZimAsset (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation), but how can the programme be successful when an arm of the government like Zimra is working to the contrary?” Muusha said. “If nothing is done to address the penalties faced by defaulting companies and the removal of garnishing orders, we are going to see more companies closing.”
Memory Gamuchirai, a local businesswoman, said: “Mutare plays an important role in the implementation of ZimAsset due to its proximity to the Indian Ocean. It is the gateway to the sea. But we are facing difficulties from Zimra that have left us wondering if we will do business again. The penalties are very harsh and there is need for reviewing these garnishing orders.”
Zimra head of audit in Manicaland Willie Chishakwe said a lot of companies in the province owed the tax collector.
“We can actually exceed our targets by three times if we collect all the debts. Zimra is offering payment plans to those in arrears. If you don’t come to own up what you owe us that is when we take drastic measures,” he said.
Chishakwe said due to the prevailing harsh economic conditions they were not attaching property.
“We understand that companies are under financial stress and we have suspended the attachment of property, but, there are cases though where the Commissioner-General is empowered to do so,” he said.
Finance deputy minister Samuel Undenge said Zimra played an important role in government’s fiscus.
“We have a huge salary bill for the civil servants. They need to be paid and thus companies must pay their dues on time to avoid penalties,” he said.
Undenge said companies in Manicaland were to blame for not taking an initiative to venture into value addition operations of diamonds, gold and other minerals and natural resources in the province.