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TRA promises action on Mbowe tax allegations

Tuesday April 13 2021
Mbowe pic

Mr Freeman Mbowe. Photo | File

By Louis Kalumbia

Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) yesterday said it will look into claims made by the Chadema national chairman Freeman Mbowe on  confiscation of his bank accounts to cover over Sh2 billion in taxes  due on his companies.

Mr Mbowe  a politician-cum- businessman running several companies revealed the saga during a press conference last Sunday, saying he was among the victims of the previous leadership.

Yesterday, TRA Deputy Commissioner General Msafiri Mbibo  (pictured) said the Authority would look in to the claims in Mr Mbowe’s speech and vis-a-vis legal and other parameters.

“Someone can speak his mind in public, although I can’t con- clude that Mr Mbowe did the same because I haven’t heard him. Let me hear him and determine whether the matter was supposed to be made public,” he said.

He said TRA is restricted by laws from disclos- ing taxpayer’s information to the public, except to authorities permitted by the law.

Regarding TRA’s recent letter to Mr Mbowe, Mr Mbibo said the taxman consisted of operational offices countrywide, saying it takes time for such reports to reach headquarters for them to collect enough details on issues directly touching their positions.

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Speaking on implementation of recent directives by President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the TRA deputy chief said they have no option other than implement her instructions in accordance with the laws, professionalism, accountability and integrity.

During the press conference, Mr Mbowe said that his tax woes
started in November 2018 when he spent four months in prison following bail revocation by the court on a political case he was facing.

He said TRA issued 60 days that were extended for another 30 days through letters and e-mails that couldn’t reach him because he was behind bars leading to legalization of the tax estimate and penalties that accumulated to Sh2.06 billion.

“I became aware of this the day I was released from prison. I wondered how a small firm located in a remote area of Machame Mountains could be subjected to taxes supposed to be levied on a company that has generated Sh12 billion in profits from over Sh50 billion in sales,” he said.

He said efforts to consult authorities including the late President John Magufuli didn’t change decisions made despite promises made only to find all his accounts closed.

Mr Mbowe said the closed accounts include personal and companies’ accounts as well as the parliament account he used for receiving salaries as an MP.

“They remained closed until the day before yesterday (last Friday) when TRA wrote to inform that the accounts have been freed and restrictions lifted probably following President Hassan’s instructions,” he said.

However, he said the taxman has remained calm on the fate of monies confiscated from the account as well as humiliation he suffered.

The former Hai Constituency legislator said he was forced to spend over four months abroad in order to look for investment opportunities in South Africa, Dubai and the US.

He questioned, “This is just me. But how many other people from the business community who have been denied opportunities, therefore have shifted their capital and fled the country?”

Addressing the public after swearing in the new ministers and their deputies at the Chamwino State House in Dodoma on April 1, 2021, President Hassan expressed her dissatisfaction with the current trend by tax collectors which was strangling businesses and investments.

“You are killing businesses. You use more force than prudence in your tax collection endeavours,” she said.

President Hassan said she was unhappy with a tendency of milk- ing some taxpayers dry and that of going to the extent of seizing their working tools and confiscating their bank accounts.

“Though the law allows you to do that, once it happens, someone decides to close the business and move to the neighbouring country.

By so doing, you are reducing the number of taxpayers,” she said, insisting on the need to widen the tax base. “Anything that reduces taxpayers’ morale to pay tax must be sorted out accordingly,” she said.

Speaking in Parliament in Dodoma last night when winding up debate on the Third National Development Plan, Finance and Planning minister Mwigulu Nchemba said the government had begun implementing President Hassan’s directives, adding that results has started to be seen.

“Some people have confirmed that  their bank accounts have been unfrozen, while others have confirmed that cases that were brought against them have been dropped.

People should know that the President’s assistants are working to implement her directives,” he said without naming names.

Dr Nchemba added that people should stop pointing accusing fingers at the late former President John Magufuli, saying Tanzania’s fifth president should be left to rest in peace.

“There are others who have started aiming  barbs at the departed leader. He has completed his job in the government and the world. The challenge is now on us. What are we are going to do for the country?” he asked.

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