Over D164M owed to gov’t in tax arrears
Friday, March 02, 2012
Bakary Sanyang, the Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) yesterday, Thursday 1st March 2012 told the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Evasion and other Corrupt Practices chaired by Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh that the outstanding tax liabilities due and owed to the government is about D164, 651, 397 in respect of income tax, sales tax and payee tax for the period 2007 to 2011.
Sanyang made these revelations whilst responding to questions posed to him by the Commission members and state counsel Binga D.
It would be recalled that the said Commission had on the 14th February 2012 ordered the Commissioner General Sanyang, Commissioner Domestic Tax Corr, the deputy Commissioner Tax Office Operation Mamoud Joof and Senior Tax Officer Malamin Jatta to provide through the Commissioner General the following information and documentations;
1. Outstanding liabilities owed by tax payers for the period 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, in which the said liabilities be broken down by sales tax, income tax and payee tax.
2. The total expected revenue on tax due and received for the period 2007 to 2011.
3. Number of files audited from 2007 to date to be broken down yearly.
4. Number of tax payers who have issued bounce cheques from 2007 to date to be broken down by names, years and amount payable and finally a copy of the GRA Audit Manual.
After the aforementioned documentation and information were tendered and admitted in evidence by the Commission, Commissioner General Sanyang was then cross-examined on the said documentation and information.
Sanyang however disclosed that he cannot specifically explain certain things about certain issues, adding that the information were provided through his technicians. Regarding the number of audited files, Sanyang said there are field audit and desk audit. Sanyang revealed that the desk audit helps his organisation in the amendment and confirmation of certain issues.
When asked when was the last time he saw the tax audit report, Sanyang replied when he was the Commissioner of Domestic Tax, close to one year now. Further asked the criteria used by the GRA in the selection of desk and field audit, Sanyang replied that it is done in a random selection and gave some names of large tax payers that were audited during his tenure as the Commissioner of Domestic Tax, which included Right Choice Supermarktet, AHS Holding, EH Farage, Continental Group, Kairaba Pharmacy, A&A General Trading, KG International, Modern Stationery Stores, Unique Solutions amongst others.
the criteria for identifying large taxpayers, Sanyang disclosed that the
current criteria in preparation for the VAT is a turn over of D1.5 Million. At this
point, Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh dismissed his claim that the Commission
was interested in the period 2007 to 2011.
State Counsel Binga D however queried why the GRA did not include the names of banks and GSM service providers that were audited. Sanyang was quick to say that he does not actually deal with files, but his attention is only drawn to certain files when his expertise is needed. The Commissioner General explained that the basis of carryout assessment on large taxpayers turnover is to ascertain the authenticity of their declaration.
On the number of taxpayers who have issued bounced or dishonoured cheques form 2007 to date, Sanyang explained that the issue of dishonoured cheques were complied by the Director of Finance and the internal audit at the GRA. He however explained that dishonoured cheques are payment made by tax payers sent for Central Bank for clearance but were not honoured.
He disclosed that once GRA realises that the Central Bank of The Gambia rejects dishonoured cheques, the cheques are normally sent back to the respective department to which the cheques were made, and thereafter the taxpayers attention notified. He pointed out that the GRA normally issues receipts for cheques and when the cheque bounces, the said cheque is then sent to the Director of Finance. He who asserted that GRA also personal cheques, remarked that it is not right to issue dishonoured cheque, when he was asked whether he knows that the issuance of dishonoured cheques is a crime.
Sanyang disclosed that it is easier to embezzle cash than to embezzle cheque. He explained that when cheques are issued, GRA makes a follow up in ensuring that the money is recovered. He told the Commission that the Director of Finance and the accountant are responsible for monitoring the money collected. Sanyang further told the Commission that internal audit department usually conduct an audit exercise to ascertaining whether there is need for reconciliation. Sanyang informed the Commission that there have been some dud cheques that have been paid off.
At this point, the chairperson of the Commission, Justice Singhateh queried that Ocean Bay Hotel has featured prominently in the list provided before the Commission for issuing dud cheques. Justice Singhateh reminded the Commissioner General for having said that when a dud cheque is issued, the GRA would blacklist the taxpayer and GRA would never accept cheque from them. Justice Singhateh asked why was GRA still accepting cheques from them, and Sanyang replied that most of the cheques are post-dated ones, adding that his principle in accepting post-dated cheques is to make the client to be committed.
Sanyang told the Commission that the National Audit Office had always conducted audit on dud cheques but cannot recall when the last exercise was conducted. He was quick to add that there is a current ongoing audit exercise being conducted on dud cheques, which commenced in February 2012.
The Commissioner General disclosed that the reason for the ongoing exercise is purely routine, adding that the GRA has had a preparatory meeting with the National Audit Office, prior to the commencement of the exercise. He however disclosed that the outstanding amount on dud cheques that were supposed to be collected is about D5, 587, 451.35 for domestic tax. Sanyang further disclosed that the outstanding amount regarding dishonoured cheques for Customs and Excise is about two to three (D2 – 3) Million dalasis.
When asked if a particular cheque of about D48, 000 on MW Shop has been cleared, Sanyang told the Commission that he doesn’t know.
Further asked if there was an uncleared cheque of D30, 000 issued by one Ebrima Jobe, Sanyang also said he doesn’t know. In her brief evidence before the Commission, Musukebba Corr, Commissioner of Domestic Tax disclosed that there are about 250, 000 tax payers in the country and the tax liabilities for Domestic Tax indicated an amount of D164, 651, 361, prior to 2007 to date.
Corr said that there are about 300 files for large taxpayers, adding that the criteria in selecting large tax payers turnover is about one million dalasis and above. She explained that in 2007, the criteria was D1.5 Million turnover, but increased to D3 Million and then to D5 Million in 2009, 2010 but around mid-2011 it was brought down to D1 Million.
One of the Commissioners then queried that there are evidence that Prime Insurance Company, Mansea Beach Hotel and African Village Hotel have tax liabilities, but they were not included in the list that GRA had submitted before the Commission. Corr replied that when she called a meeting, deputy Commissioners and managers are invited to look at the files that are needed to be looked at within the time frame.
When asked about the income and sales tax Act, Musukebba Corr disclosed that the said Act was enacted in 2004 and comes into effect in 2005 but GRA started applying it in 2006.
At this point, the Commission chairperson Justice Singhateh urged the Commissioner of Domestic Tax to furnish the Commission with a copy of the gazette on the income and sales tax Act 2004, and to further furnish the Commission with list of all large tax payers with a turn over of D1.5 Million and above, indicating which of them has tax liabilities from 2007 to 2011.
Author: Sidiq Asemota