Editor's Comment

TPIN registration should be on-going

FOR the third time, the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has had to postpone the deadline set for taxpayer identification number (TPIN) registration.
After introduction of the law requiring every bank account holder to have a TPIN in 2017, a deadline of March 3 was set.
However, by the due date, not much progress had been made, compelling ZRA to extend the exercise to June 30, 2018, then December 31, 2018 and now indefinitely.
It is clear that this is not the kind of exercise that should be bound to time for obvious reasons that through the natural process of progression, we constantly have people moving from one stage in life to another.
In the same vein, we have people opening accounts and starting businesses continuously.
There is never going to be a time when people will stop opening accounts or engaging in business.
In business, for instance, while others phase out through death or just retirement, many more come on board.
Actually TPIN registration is just like national registration card (NRC) acquisition, which is a continuous process. You cannot put a deadline to NRC acquisition because people keep on growing.
While setting deadlines may be seen as a way of increasing compliance, sensitising the public on the importance of having a TPIN is more suitable and likely to achieve better results.
Going by the misunderstandings surrounding the introduction of the law, it probably explains the resistance and low compliance levels.
Many people are still cynical about acquiring a TPIN. This is because they have been misinformed that through the TPIN, ZRA will be deducting money from their accounts on a monthly basis and from every extra income deposited.
However, ZRA Commissioner General Kingsley Chanda has explained that the objective of TPIN registration is to ensure that there is an inclusive and comprehensive tax register in the country.
While on one hand it will increase compliance levels, it will also help in monitoring and detecting money laundering activities.
As provided for by law, a TPIN is required to make vital transactions with:
• ZRA – for imports and exports
• Ministry of Lands – property registrations and transfers
• Road Traffic and Safety Agency (RTSA) – motor vehicle registration and change of ownership
• Zesco – new applications for power connection
• All banks and financial institutions – opening or maintaining an account.
In dealing with ZRA, a TPIN allows individuals and companies to do electronic tax returns.
Hence with a TPIN in place, one does not need to go to ZRA to submit tax returns but can do so online.
It should also be noted that the TPIN requirement is not only peculiar to Zambia but a global practice.
Given the low compliance levels as witnessed from the continued extension of deadlines for TPIN registration, ZRA has a mammoth task to demystify the exercise.
This can only happen with intensive and consistent sensitisation.
ZRA should use different forms of media, including face-to-face interactions, to educate the public on why it is important for them to have TPINs.
From the logistical point of view no one can claim that the low compliance levels are as a result of the process.
TPIN registration is one of the easiest and convenient processes.
For instance, to obtain a TPIN, an individual or a business entity or organisation is required to apply electronically or physically by completing a ZRA prescribed tax registration form and attach, for an individual – including foreigners – a copy of one’s green national registration card or a passport and details of residence.
The process takes only a few minutes.
It is also commendable that ZRA takes advantage of public events like the trade fair to issue TPINs to members of the public.
The public cannot therefore fault ZRA on the process of acquiring a TPIN.
While intensifying its sensitisation, ZRA will however do well to heed the calls by various stakeholders to make the exercise of TPIN registration an ongoing one.
ZRA will also do well to enhance its collaboration with stakeholders like banks to ensure compliance.

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