Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) has adopted a mechanical and inflexible attitude towards taxpayers as they fail to apply substance over form when dealing with ITF 263 applications. Last week, a consultancy client of mine, a religious taxpayer since formation of his organisation back in the late 2000s failed to get an ITF 263 certificate as the ZIMRA’s e-filing system could not reconcile a $1.50 payment made as a top-up towards income tax. This is despite the SME business having contributed more than $20,000 to ZIMRA in Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), value added tax (VAT) and income tax payments. The self services platform was down last week due to an overload of activity on the platform and as a result it could not issue some taxpayers their treasured tax clearance certificates.

An appeal to the Supervisor who deals with the account did not yield results as the client was informed to go and dig through their files and try to locate the $1.50 payment if they wanted a tax clearance. As you can imagine parking alone in the city costs $1 per hour and another drive back to the office and back is probably $5 down the drain all over a $1.50 stand-off! ZIMRA defended their position saying the tax clearance is system driven; thus, the system cross references all returns and payments and if everything checks out it issues a tax clearance and if something doesn’t match up, the application for ITF 263 will be declined.

Surely, ZIMRA officers can apply a bit of discretion and help clients in a more pragmatic manner and not be unreasonable and controlled by their “system.” After all, taxpayers who are contributing to the fiscus seem to be the ones who continue to be bombarded with ZIMRA compliance issues such as fiscalisation, audits, denied compliance certificates while briefcase businessmen fly under the radar.