MEDIA Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chapter chairperson Hellen Mwale says Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA)’s tax compliance audit on media houses is in line with their mandate but has been wrongly timed following an impasse between the government and Prime Television.

The ZRA recently wrote to all media houses, informing them of a tax compliance audit, but stakeholders received the move with mixed feeling, as others called it a witch-hunt against Prime TV which had gotten into a misunderstanding with the government.

But in an interview, Mwale noted that the timing was wrong as the move could be misconstrued as a witch-hunt even when that was not the case.

“First of all, what we should understand is that the institution that is mandated to look into issues of tax compliance is ZRA and it has got the legal authority to carry out audit but the timing of the ZRA is such that people can suspect anything…I know for sure this is not the first time that ZRA is carrying out such an exercise with media houses and as MISA, we have been receiving such letters so this is why I am saying it’s not the first time. I know there was a time also they did the same, I think about two years ago. The question we must ask ZRA is ’why is there a gap? Why don’t they do that on a yearly basis?’ However, I must state that because of the issues surrounding Prime TV, the timing by ZRA is wrong because those suspicions of witch-hunts or whatever, but it’s a requirement for them to do their work,” Mwale said

“It’s a requirement for them to write to every institution and carry out the tax audit. This is not to say Prime could be right but just that there is some tension between the government and private media which is Prime TV. We have all these things going on, they could have chosen another date or another time but who are we to stop them from carrying out their own function or mandate? Because they are expected to do that and it does not stipulate when, that is where the trick is.”

She, however, disclosed that the audit had already been done with ZNBC and urged citizens to be tax compliant as the law demands.

“I know that they had that, I have done my own investigations, I know they did the tax audit at ZNBC, I don’t know when they will visit the other institutions but I know for sure that they did because I have colleagues at ZNBC, and they did confirm. But looking at what is happening to Prime TV and the relationship with government, I think the timing for ZRA is wrong, but as citizens, we know when our tax our due, we know when we are supposed to pay and we all need to be tax compliant,” said Mwale.