Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA
THE Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) last week ran an advertisement of a list of traders who have been prosecuted by the courts for not using their cash registers (tills) in their shops.
One of the traders was prosecuted for not issuing tax invoices.
To anyone who cares about the running of government machinery, this is a step in the right direction. Government needs money to run and this is common sense.
Cash registers are computerised machines that record sales and receipts. It also calculates transactions conducted by the trader. It therefore means that the lack of a till machine in a shop leaves no evidence of sales, making it difficult to calculate tax that is due to Government.
Paying tax to Government is law. Anyone who does not oblige will be visited by the long arm of the law. Any profit-making company and individuals who are employed are obliged to pay tax.
In any case, tax evasion amounts to daylight robbery. If a trader does not pay tax, in short they are stealing from Government.
Government raises revenue through the various taxes and payments that we make as citizens and businessmen. Mining companies, as business entities that operate in Zambia, are required to pay tax. Other companies, too, have to meet their tax requirement in one way or the other.
When we come to the individual level, workers pay tax to Government through pay as you earn. This tax is levied on the income a worker gets from his employer.
Just like in a home, if there is no money, the parents will not meet their obligations to family members.
At a family level, there are bills to be paid and food to be bought. The bills come in all sorts, ranging from the services that one enjoys in their home and those that are sought outside the home, like health and education.
So it is with a government. We are quick to blame government for failing to offer quality service when at the same time we do not want to carry out our obligations towards the same government.
In a case where one does not use their cash machine, they are evading tax. From the sales that one makes, they are supposed to pay tax to Government and if they do not use a cash machine, there is no finding out how much one owes Government.
That is why Government made it mandatory for a trader to use a cash register so that there are documents and there is evidence of sales from where tax can be calculated.
Shops on Freedom Way in Lusaka are popular for their seemingly cheaper groceries and other merchandise. Most owners of shops in townships flock there to procure merchandise in bulk. On any given day, it is a struggle to find parking space.
Apart from this, some ordinary people buy their groceries from there every month. The turnout of customers in the shops entails business is favourable to both the retailers and the customers.
As consumers, we also pay value added tax on goods and services we enjoy. VAT is paid by the last person in the supply chain. A consumer lies at the end of that chain. For the goods and services they purchase, consumers have to pay tax which eventually ends up in Government coffers.
As citizens, we have a responsibility to help Government by paying taxes. We also have a duty to urge others to pay their taxes. One of the drawbacks, I do not know whether that is a Zambian attitude, is to â€œlet sleeping dogs lieâ€.
It is disappointing that some customers, whether it is out of sheer ignorance or this â€˜I do not care attitudeâ€™, walk into a shop even when they know there is no cash register to buy a lot of goods. Their payment ends up in a drawer and they walk out of the shop! When such people do this, do they realise how much money Government is losing?
Some concerned customers would insist on using a cash machine. When such a demand is made, an unscrupulous trader would claim the machine is not working. Even the next time one visits the same shop, the machine would still lie idle and the tax from that shop remains unaccounted for.
There are cases when some discerning traders respond to the demand to use a cash register. It will boggle your mind that a cash machine which has gathered dust becomes alive all of a sudden.
Customers as well as traders have a duty to pay taxes. On their part, those who frequent this area to buy goods should demand the use of cash registers. If everybody took this stand, more cash would flow to Government.
The prosecution of defaulting traders is a warning to others. The Zambia Revenue Authority should spread its reach to all traders.
Let us all pay our taxes.
The author is Sunday Mail Editor.
Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA