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E1 800 FOR BUSINESS TAX APPEAL

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MBABANE – “In the case where taxpayers, business and tax collectors are at odds over computation, obligation to pay or application of any rule, law and/or policy, an independent higher appellate body must intervene, preside over and rule on the case filed by the aggrieved party.”

This was mentioned by the Registrar of Revenue Appeals Tribunal of Eswatini (RATE), Nelisiwe Tsabedze, in an interview with this publication. RATE was established by the Revenue Appeals Tribunal Act No. 13 of 2019. Its main purpose is to deal with tax-related issues between the taxpayer and collector.

Perspective

The registrar said from the business perspective, it was not about merely providing for such right of appeal but expediently finalising the appeal as tax payment was usually not suspended pending appeal. She said this appellate structure in the tax sphere had been established to preside over and determine any tax appeal over the assessment, determination and/or tax ruling of the commissioner general, in a just, expeditious and economical way.

“Without a higher structure or mechanism to preside over and determine the correct interpretation and application of any tax law on appeal, the relationship between the two equally important stakeholders being the taxpayer (business persons) and tax regulator (ERS) would easily descend to acrimony and lead to the unnecessary demonisation of the tax collection process,” she said. Hlophe added that RATE had jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal arising from an assessment, decision, ruling, determination, and direction of the commissioner general under any revenue law.

Appeal

She said any other matter as may be prescribed by the minister, by notice in the gazette, to be a matter against which an appeal may be made under the Revenue Appeals Tribunal Act No.13 of 2019. The registrar also mentioned that a business dissatisfied or aggrieved with the decision of the commissioner general relating to assessments, directions or determinations had a right to make an appeal against this decision with the tribunal. She added that in the previous dispensation, the right of appeal was previously provided to an aggrieved taxpayer at the High Court in mainstream litigation. However, matters in mainline litigation inevitably delayed, owing to rigid and strict rules of procedure to which judges were bound.

Satisfied

“A taxpayer who is not satisfied by any assessment, demand notice, ruling or decision by the commissioner general on any of revenue laws administered by the Eswatini Revenue Service may appeal to the tribunal within a period of thirty (30 days) of receipt of the commissioner general’s decision or notice of assessment,” said the registrar. Extension of time to file appeal or reply, party may apply to the tribunal for an extension of time within which to file an appeal or reply. Hlophe said such application must be supported by an affidavit stating reasons why the applicant was unable to submit the documents in time and served on the respondent by the appellant within two days of filing with the clerk.

Amendment of notice of appeal and reply may, with the approval of the tribunal, amend their notice of appeal or reply by submitting a written application for amendment to the tribunal within at least 14 days before the hearing date and a copy of the application must be shared with the other party. Hlophe mentioned that an amendment must specify the matters in the notice of appeal or reply, as the case may be, that were being amended, indicate the amendment being affected and be served on the other party immediately after the amendment was filed. The government of Eswatini was in the process of facilitating amendments that would improve the tax legislation environment in the country.

Liquidation

Many businesses have in the past years faced liquidation and foreclosure due to debts and tax penalties. Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg said as government, they were committed to creating conducive environment for doing business in the country. The minister was speaking during Business Eswatini Tax Indaba which was hosted at Royal Villas, where he was invited as a keynote speaker.

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