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SRA CLOSES PLAZA TANDOORI, WANTS E3.4M

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MBABANE – The Eswatini Revenue Authority has closed down popular Mbabane eatery, Plaza Tandoori Restaurant.


The restaurant is situated at Swazi Plaza in Mbabane. The restaurant has not been operational since March 13, 2020 and SRA is reportedly demanding a sum of E3 466 355 .85 from the eatery. According to the authority, the eatery allegedly under declared its sales by the sum of E2 396 076.07 for the four month period from April to December 2012.


In closing the restaurant, the SRA Commissioner General invoked Section 44(1) of the VAT Act 2011.   The Act allows the commissioner general to close a business unit where a person has failed to remit an amount taxable within the prescribed period.


Section 44(1) provides that: “Where a person is liable for tax has failed to remit the amount payable by that person within the prescribed time, the commissioner general may lock up and seal the business premises of that person and thereafter the goods in their business premises shall be deemed to be attached and at the disposal of the commissioner general.’’ The authority has not only closed the business premises but further froze the bank account of the restaurant.
seeking


Through its lawyer Kenneth Simelane, the restaurant has filed an urgent application at the High Court where it is inter alia seeking an order directing the respondent (SRA) to uplift the freeze on its (Plaza Tandoori Restaurant) bank account number 020000661709 held with Nedbank (Swaziland) Limited.
The applicant (Plaza Tandoori Restaurant) is further praying for an order directing the respondent to open its business situated at Shop No.2, Swazi Plaza, Mbabane.


In its application, the eatery also wants the court to declare that the respondent did not assess it to tax for the VAT periods April 2012 to December 2012. The applicant is further seeking an order directing that it was not liable for any tax liability for the VAT period April to December 2012.


promulgated


Mohammed Asraful Chowdhury, who is the director of the applicant, submitted that the Act, promulgated in 2011, came into effect in April 2012. According to Chowdhury, the promulgation of the Act coincided with the establishment of the SRA.  He alleged that at its introductory stages, there were challenges in the understanding of its processes and procedures, both by the taxable persons, businesses charging and being charged VAT and the officers of the respondent in the implementation of the provisions of the Act.


He highlighted that Chowdhury Investments (PTY) Limited had a number of business entities, which traded as a stand- alone business. He alleged that each of the business entities were a separated taxable person with a separate TIN number allocated.


Chowdhury averred that Plaza Tandoori Restaurant, in compliance with its obligations under the Act, submitted VAT returns for 2012.
“In these returns, the applicant disclosed its output VAT on the goods it supplied to its customers and claimed input VAT from goods and supplies made to it.  In the period April to December 2012, the applicant was in a VAT refund position, as its input VAT for purchase of goods and services exceeded the output VAT,” submitted the director.


averred


He recounted that in 2013, the applicant received a written notice of an intended audit from SRA. Chowdhury averred that shortly thereafter SRA officials, namely; Kennedy Hlatini, Zethu Shongwe, Busisiwe Ginindza and Duduzile Dlamini attended at the applicant’s  business to conduct a physical audit. 

On arrival, according to Chowdhury, the SRA officials were allegedly informed by the manager of the restaurant Nazrul Islam that the applicant’s director, Badrul Alam Chowdhury, who ran the business and was in control of all the business records, was out of the country.


Islam allegedly requested the SRA officials to return when his father (Allam) was back in the country so that he could provide them with all the documentation and information they required in order to conduct the audit.


These are allegations whose veracity is still to be tested in court and the respondent is yet to file its papers. “The SRA officials refused and insisted on conducting the audit then and there and in the absence of my father. Islam provided the SRA officials with such documentation and granted them access as they required,” submitted Chowdhury.


proceeded


He informed the court that the SRA officials then proceeded to count the cash on hand in the cash register.  Islam is alleged to have explained to the officials that the applicant retained in the cash register, in addition to the proceeds from the sale of goods, a daily float of approximately E1 000 to E1 500 as well as provisions for petty cash.


He said the applicant heard nothing further from the SRA team and no further request was made for any supporting documents.
“The applicant was surprised to receive a draft audit report, dated June 20, 2013 on or about July 2013.  The findings of the inspection report, were that the applicant had under- declared its sales by the sum of E2 396 076.07 for the four- month period from April to December 2012,” contended Chowdhury.


He argued that the applicant had allegedly engaged with the respondent continuously over a period of six years to bring to SRA’s attention the fact that the tax liability had been incorrectly raised.


“This matter is urgent as the respondent has already made a demand of E3 466 355.85 and has already closed the applicant’s business.  The applicant’s account was frozen on March 6, 2020,” averred Chowdhury.


He contended that SRA had allegedly invoked its alleged draconian powers in terms of the Act, in circumstances where there is no tax liability due, owing and payable to the respondent.  The matter is still pending at the High Court.

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