ZAMBIA Revenue Authority (ZRA) Commissioner General Kingsley Chanda says the Chamber of Mines should not alarm the nation by issuing false statements on Mineral Royalty Tax (MRT) because there has only been a marginal reduction of six per cent this year.

And Chanda says the Authority will soon be launching tax payments on WhatsApp to make it easier for Zambians to pay taxes.

Speaking when he officially opened the ZRA Service Centre at the ECL Shopping Mall in Kitwe, Thursday, Chanda announced that there was a reduction of six per cent in Mineral Royalty Tax and not a 20 per cent reduction as reportedly stated by the Chamber.

He insisted that there had been a 27 per cent increase in payments of overall taxes from the mining industry.

“From January to July, 2019, and 2020 Mineral Royalty Tax for the same period, the mining companies have paid K2.53 billion in 2020. In 2019, K2.5 billion, so there is a marginal decrease, a reduction of six per cent, not the 20 per cent that the Chamber of Mines talked about! There is a reduction of six per cent in Mineral Royalty Tax comparing January, 2019, to January, 2020. If you go to income company tax for the mining industry, in 2020, they have paid K3.2 billion; in 2019, they paid K1.6 billion. So, there is an increase of 98 per cent in company income tax. When you go to Pay As You Earn (PAYE), there is a marginal reduction of three per cent, but this is a given because PAYE is paid by employees,” Chanda said.

“We have had some members of staff in the mining sector laid off. We have had some reduction in staff at Mopani (Copper Mines) and reduction in staff at Chambeshi Metals, which is on care and maintenance and other mining companies. So, if you have a reduction in the number of staff, it is inevitable that the PAYE goes down. But there are marginal differences not to the extent that the Chamber of Mines… overall, the mining sector in Zambia in 2020 have contributed K6.94 billion in January, 2020, to July. For the same period in 2019, they contributed K5.47 billion. So, overall, there has been a 27 per cent increase in payments of taxes from the mining industry.”

He argued that the “alarming statements” issued by the Chamber of Mines were malicious and designed to destabilise the Zambian economy.

“What I want to say to the Chamber is that, they must tell the truth! They may hate the leaders of this country, they may hate ZRA, but they must not hate the country. We have a country to protect. If you issue such alarming statements and discourage investments in this country, it is not just those people in leadership you hate who will suffer, it is all Zambians. I also want to state that there is no country that does not have confidentiality, but when you want to speak about confidential issues, because tax matters are confidential and they are between the tax authority and the taxpayer. But when you choose to talk about confidential things, tell the truth, say facts not myths, not lies! I consider that statement by the Chamber to be malicious and was designed to destabilise the Zambian economy,” Chanda complained.

He added that ZRA service centres at shopping malls had improved service delivery.

“Evidence further suggests that the service centres have significantly improved service delivery to our taxpayers and enhanced revenue collection. You may wish to note that service centres, which were opened in the last quarter of 2018, have already attended to more than 200,000 taxpayers as at the end of July, 2020. This shows the value that is being realised by our taxpayers through a 360-degree service experience from tax payer education, tax advice, tax registration, tax compliance checks and actual tax payments. Please note that all ZRA services are offered free of charge,” Chanda said.

“Despite our presence here in Kitwe at Nchanga House, the Authority has decided to open this service centre so that taxpayers can have a chance of interacting with us as they do their normal shopping. This is all aimed at giving taxpayers a friendlier, convenient, simpler, faster and thrilling tax experience. In terms of costs, the Authority has invested K1 million in this infrastructure including the furniture and it equipment.”

And Chanda disclosed that the Authority would launch tax payments on the popular WhatsApp social media platform, which would make it easier for Zambians to pay taxes.

“Within the next few days, we shall be launching tax payments on WhatsApp, which is a communication phone application, but using it to make tax payments. This is the first for Zambia because you will now pay your taxes using WhatsApp on your phones and this will bring convenience, efficiency, comfort and simplicity. This is what we mean when we say, ‘taxpayer focus.’ We respond to the business needs of the taxpayers. We shall, again, later roll out another product, which is the Tax on App to supplement the already-existing tax on phones and offer taxpayers a choice in terms of TPIN registration, return filing and payment. All these initiatives the Authority is making will be meaningless if our taxpayers don’t support them,” said Chanda.

Efforts to get to the Chamber of Mines to respond to Chanda’s assertion on the variance of MRT recorded in 2020 compared to the corresponding period last year 2019 did not yield a response by press time.