As part of government’s desperate measures to raise the dwindling country’s revenue, public tax collector Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is intensifying crackdown on tax dodgers but the targeted culprits has given the impression that it is only indigenous Malawians who have been involved in tax evasion.
While many indigenous Malawians are not at fault with tax compliance, Nyasa Times has established that there are Malawians of Asian origins doing business in the country that are not remitting tax but get soft treatment from MRA.
MRA sources say there are many tax evaders involving several companies owned by Malawians of Asian origin – especially Indians but they not pushed to do the needful because of corruption.
Even when they are raid by MRA, the Indians are left scot free when money exchanges hands.
Despite Indians evading tax in so many ways, MRA target indigenous Malawians on tax crimes and yet none of a Malawian of Asian origin is arrested.
MRA investigator who spoke to Nyasa Times on strict condition of anonymity bemoaned the “double standards” in the way the crackdown have been undertaken.
The matter of Indian businessman Chandrashekar More is cited as an example as he was arrested for not filing a tax return. He was released on bail and went back to his home then returned this year “sweetening” authorities to clear his cases and allow him to do business in the country.
More launched Mansi international company in 2006 and only paid tax in 2010 and then started another company in a multibillion-kwacha agribusiness Tamanna Solvex Africa in 2013.
Indian High Commission in Lilongwe has been helping more to buy his freedom.
Nyasa Times understands that the Indian High Commission has had meetings with MRA director Felix Tambulasi and Mesy Chalunda the head of internal matters in the tax body to discuss with the authorities towards closure of the court case that has been lodged against him.
The Indian High Commission opted for withdraw of the case and also fixed a meeting for More with MRA.
A group of people under the banner of Concerned Citizens is calling for tax justice for all.
Phillip Kamangira, the grouping’s chairperson has also bemoaned MRA for political witch-hunt.
He cited MRA raid at political scientist Boniface Dulani’s office in Zomba and to confiscate documents from him over alleged taxes evasion.
Dulani’s raid came barely a few days after Afrobarometer Report, which he authored together with Professor Happy Kayuni, released a report that reveals the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, is losing popularity.
He heads the Institute of Public Opinion and Research at Chancellor College, a constituent of the University of Malawi.
MRA officials accompanied by heavily armed police officers also seized records and vehicles of the Malawi media giant Times Group at Ginnery corner and sealed the offices.
The media group said MRA move was politically motivated, saying: “Times has been remitting its taxes every month”.
MRA action came after government has been accusing Times of being too critical to the Peter Mutharika administration.
The sealing of Times Media Group was made after a series of publications of articles on maize involving suspended Admarc chief executive officer Foster Mulumbe and fired Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda.
Following the publications, Admarc on December 29 2016 served Times Group with an injunction restraining the media group from publishing anything related to the maize transaction. The injunction was vacated.
And recently the tax body raised the house of outspoken Rumphi East member of Parliament (MP) Kamlepo Kalua in Nkolokosa and his son’s place in Namiwawa, Blantyre.
Kalua, one of the fierce critics of government, especially in Parliament, is suspected to have evaded tax, an accusation he dismissed, describing the exercise as part of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration’s tactics to politically persecute critics.
But government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi dismissed Kalua’s accusations, saying MRA was just carrying out its duties.
Kamangira, however, said MRA’s action of pouncing on those people deemed to be critical of government is tantamount to counter to principles of democracy.
MRA Head of Corporate Affairs Steve Kapoloma argued that it was the institution’s normal operation to invade suspected tax-evasion regardless of the individual’s status in the society.
Kapoloma said MRA launched Everyone Must Pay Tax Campaign to improve tax compliance among businesses and individuals.
He said “tax is a fundamental element of development.”
In the six months to December 2016 of the 2016/17 fiscal year, the tax bull has beaten the set target by K37.9 billion or 11 percent, after collecting a total of K377 billion against a target of K339.1 billion.
For the remaining half, MRA expects to collect K386 billion, according to Kapoloma.
MRA has registered a decline in tax evasion cases in 2016, thanks to compliance by taxpayers, Kapoloma said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :