Last year Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) introduced an e-services platform which allowed taxpayers to view and manage their account from the comfort of their offices. This e-filing online system was introduced to bring Zimbabwe in line with best practices in other countries including South Africa, which introduced its self-services 9 years ago in 2008.  The e-filing allows users to make tax returns, manage payments, view account history, apply for ITF 263 certificates and other functionalities. ITF 263 or tax clearance certificates as they are widely known are typically applied for at the beginning of each financial year in the first days of January each year. The advantages for having a tax clearance certificate are detailed in our blog: Benefits of having a tax clearance certificate.

Lost Convenience

The convenience that the e-filing system is supposed to bring however, has been brought to question again as the system could not handle user requests when the New Year commenced. Last week, taxpayers failed to apply for their tax clearance certificates as the self-services platform gave most users an error message advising users to make a visit to the nearest ZIMRA offices.

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ZIMRA e-mail reporting error message

A visit to the ZIMRA Kurima House offices in Harare would not yield any results as the ZIMRA officers had been instructed by top management to advise clients that they should wait until the system is running normally again as it is currently over-weighed by too many requests which it cannot handle. To the anger of many clients; sitting and waiting simply does not cut it as the tax clearance is required for transacting on a daily basis and failure to produce one; a customer paying your business is at law supposed to deduct 10% of the value of the invoice as withholding tax. For any business operating in this tight economy with dwindling business, 10% withdrawn liquidity is a significant amount of loot to lose simply because of ZIMRA’s incompetence!

Second year in a row

Mind you, this is the second time that the system has failed to cope with high volumes of requests for tax clearance certificates. Last year on its debut, the system suffered a similar overload and could not process user’s tax clearance certificates. A good number of clients had to go through the old manual way which ZIMRA Officers now refer to as ‘Manual Override.’ Surely a year on, ZIMRA must have fixed the problem and not send clients on another manual override run. This consumes valuable time and defeats the purpose of the self-services platform.

The Midnight Trick

A few of my clients have managed to obtain their tax clearance certificates by applying for them at odd hours of the night when traffic to the ZIMRA site are low. After receiving the error message above, a day later the user managed to get the ITF 263 by applying for it at 2AM. So if there are any taxpayers out there still experiencing difficulties getting their ITF 263s try the midnight trick.