MINISTRY of Mines Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga has urged mining houses to pay taxes instead of always having to deal with disputes through the courts.
Mulenga was commenting on a Supreme Court judgment which ordered Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) Plc to pay the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) over K240 million tax charges assessed from 2006 to 2010 on Wednesday.
Mopani is supposed to pay K240,891,939.89 in taxes made up of K140,891,939.89 for the charge years 2008/09 and 2009/10 and K100,000,000.00 for the charge years 2006/07 and 2007/08.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Tax Appeals Tribunal was wrong to have ordered Mopani Copper Mines to pay over K300 million as tax for the charge years 2006/07 and 2007/08.
This was an appeal to the Supreme Court between Mopani Copper Mines as an appellant and the Zambia Revenue Authority as the respondent.
The judgement was delivered by Chief Justice Irene Mambilima sitting with two other Supreme Court judges Mumba Manila and Nigel Mutuna.
Commenting on the judgement in an interview, Mulenga said tax disputes did not always have to end up in court.
“So, the issues of taxation should really not be acrimonious, the way we have generally seen it to be happening where matters have to go as far as the Supreme Court. We just expect them to pay their fair share of taxes, I think that’s the bottom line, it’s not asking for too much, but I think what obviously we are not happy about is the fact that these tax issues, we see basically a trend where a number of these mining houses, it will end up going in court, Revenues Appeals Tribunal Court and, ultimately, of course, you can see now that ZRA has won! The Supreme Court has said they owe ZRA. So, things must not be like this, I think they must be a way of them being able to pay because then, that’s how Zambians also benefit from those taxes paid,” Mulenga said.
“Basically, our position is that, there must be a benefit out of this mining. Government and the people of Zambia must benefit from the mines as well and the win-win from the government point of view is that, they should pay their fair share of taxes; they should be able to create jobs for Zambians and give Zambian mine contractors jobs…that is the win-win from the Zambian point of view. So, government stands up for the people, especially the voiceless. And they, as mine houses, obviously, their primary motive is profit, so as they make their profit, the taxes must also be paid because out of those taxes, the rest of us citizens get benefits.”
And Mulenga announced that government was engaging various mining companies to assess how best they could be supported to avoid more mines lapsing into care and maintenance.
“The position is that, as government, we have engaged seriously with the mining companies just to see how they can be supported in the issue of COVID-19 and one or two other challenges they are facing. Some of them, obviously, after COVID, we detest the fact that some of their people that were supposed to join them could not actually come through, they were expecting some things to come through from outside, which were now caught up in the long wait with these issues of flights and lock downs. So, the position, really, is that the issue of care and maintenance is on a case-by-case basis. It is not something we expect to be affecting all of them, no, because their challenges are different and some of their challenges are different from one mine to another. But that is something that we are looking at now and seeing that we just improve things. But we will keep you updated because even as I speak to you now, we are on the Copperbelt just to ensure that there is engagement and we avert the negative impact,” said Mulenga.