Friday, March 27, 2009
Bulawayo BureauIN what could turn out to be a big scandal, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officers in Bulawayo are demanding R500 to issue tax clearance certificates to new companies, despite the fact that the service is for free.The officers have gone as far as giving clients an account number into which they should deposit the money.The officers, operating from the third floor of Mhlahlandlela Government Complex, are asking for R500, P500 or US$50 to process the certificates.Investigations by our Bulawayo Bureau this week revealed that the officers give clients a tax number without the certificate and only release the document when the money has been paid.Zimbabwean law bars a company from trading formally without a tax certificate. Not having one effectively stops an organisation from transacting with big companies or legally supplying bulk orders.A number of people called the Bulawayo Bureau on Tuesday when they discovered they had been fleeced."A Mrs Ncube attended to me and when she said I should pay, I thought it was part of the procedure. After paying, I got shocked when a friend told me there was no charge for getting a certificate," said a man, who asked not to be named.Another man who also asked not to be named said a Mr Mudzingwa at Mhlahlandlela gave him a CBZ account number when he said he did not have money on him to pay."Mr Mudzingwa gave me Account Number 01222381360032 at CBZ and said the account name was Commissioner General."He gave me my tax number but said the certificate could only be released when the full amount had been paid. I am yet to pay so I do not have a certificate, which means I cannot start trading legally," said the man.He said he suspected scores more could have fallen prey to the corrupt officials at Zimra .Posing as a businessman, our Bulawayo Bureau called Client Services at Zimra Mhlahlandlela pretending to be a customer who had forgotten the number and was promptly given the same CBZ account number at the reception, giving rise to speculation that many people were involved in the scam.At the Zimra main offices, at the corner of 8th Avenue and Fort Street, our bureau was emphatically told that tax clearance certificates were issued for free."There is no charge for getting a tax certificate. Unless the law changed within the last few hours and we have not yet been informed about the change, it is free," said a woman at the reception.In a telephone interview from Harare, the Zimra chief loss control officer Mr Peter Paradza said they would institute investigations into the matter."We do not charge anything to issue tax clearances. If anyone has been doing that, we welcome any details so that we can conduct our investigations and bring the culprits to book," he said.