Spare a Thought!!
How many people in the world spare a thought for the 'Hapless Security Guard'
That wall of special folk - unseen, invisible, immaterial, ghostlike, faceless, nameless and certainly unappreciated
Our perimeter wall fell down without an apology recently and left us open to the elements and all the prying eyes. HeeHoo insisted I engage the duties of a security guard and I did so reluctantly knowing my life would become even more horrendous than if I was left without a guard.
The Hapless Fellow arrived punctually, at dusk!! Poor soul had left his cell phone 'At the office' he told me!! He probably did not have electricity at his home and has to rely on a quick 'charge' at the office, while reporting for muster. Now that, in itself is enough to keep him awake all night, wondering what would happen to this precious possession during a twelve hour tour of duty! And at least with a cell phone one has access to a tiny bit of light and company!!
The moonless nights in Zimbabwe can be excruciatingly dark, he had no knowledge of his surroundings, his areas of responsibility or his areas of accessibility. I took the cowards route and left him to it, not wanting to engage in any sort of conversation that might endear him to me!!
His 'command post' comprised a seat with a cushion, a blanket, and a flask of tea with jam sambos!! He also has a panic button in case of emergency, linking him to his Control Room,!! A lot more than most guards countrywide could boast, but how can a girl sleep comfortably in her warm toasty bed, knowing that a Human Being was outside in the bitterly cold night, just to keep her safe
Zimbabwean security guards have few privileges although some of the security companies do the best the can under strangling circumstances. Many are equipped with a baton, a notebook and a warm jacket, but they are the minority. Few have torches as batteries are at a premium in this Godforsaken economy.
Every Zimbabwean appears to boast a mobile phone for some unknown reason, and similarly most folk would rather opt for a 'Top Up' of their cell phone than choose a loaf of bread!!
What would you do, as a security guard, if you noticed a band of robbers appear in the moonless night Me Well I would hide under my blanket and pretend to be fast asleep....
The Third World has a plethora of security guards, many homes, every business, and during the day every car has a 'Car Guard' !! These youngsters should be at school but instead, circumstances dictate that they earn a few coins here and there looking after cars in the City.
Most of them carry a sheaf of bogus parking meter tickets, which they hastily stick under the windscreen wiper when the Council Parking Meter Attendants walk by!
I hang my head in shame but must confess that, I too am one of those bad folk who has occasionally (and unknowingly of course!) tried to swindle the council out of revenue !!
Warning to all so called Exempt tax Bodies
In the past the administrator of the all exempt bodies such as old age homes, welfare organisations, wildlife trusts, Charitable trusts, Churches, schools, Home owners associations, sporting associations etc.,( this is not an exhaustive list) would send to Zimra Head Office in Harare a signed copy of the relevant constitution and their first set of Financial Statements for Mr. Godfrey Chirapa to peruse.
Zimra would examine the Constitution and check that the objects complied with the provisions of paragraph 2(d) or paragraph 2 (e )of the Third Schedule namely that their operations fell within the ambit provided by the provisions of the relevant paragraph in the third schedule and that the receipts or accruals could not be divided amongst or credited or enure to the benefit of any member. For your convenience we reproduce here the relevant paragraphs:
'2. The receipts and accruals of-
(a) agricultural, mining and commercial institutions or societies not operating for the private pecuniary profit or gain of the members;
(b) benefit funds;
(c) building societies, and financial institutions providing mortgage finance, but only to the extent that the receipts or accruals of such financial institutions are attributable to the provision of mortgage finance by them.
(d) clubs, societies, institutes and associations organized and operated solely for social welfare, civic improvement, pleasure, recreation or the advancement or control of any profession or trade or other similar purposes if such receipts or accruals, whether current or accumulated, may not be divided amongst or credited to or enure to the benefit of any member or shareholder other than by way of remuneration for services rendered;
(e) ecclesiastical institutions, charitable and educational institutions of a public character-
(i) consisting of donations, tithes, offerings or other contributions by the members or benefactors of the institutions concerned, and any other receipts or accruals that are not receipts and accruals of income from trade or investment carried on by or on behalf of the institutions concerned; or
(ii) that are receipts and accruals of income from trade or investment by any company of which that institution is the sole or principal member, and in respect of which the Minister responsible for the Companies Act [Chapter 24:03] has issued a licence in terms of section 26 of that Act.'
Mr. Godfrey Chirapa would then invariably ask the Administrator to amend the Constitution / Deed to insert two clauses:
'i. That no alteration will be made to the Constitution without the approval of the Commissioner- General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
ii. That on dissolution, no distribution of the remaining assets will be made without the prior approval of the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. '
Once Zimra were satisfied Mr. Godfrey Chirapa would write to the respective body advising:
'Please note that we have perused a copy of the Constitution/Deed of the ... and note that the ... is exempt from income tax in terms of paragraph 2(d) (or 2(e)) of the Third Schedule to the Income Tax Act[Chapter 23:06]. The .... is also exempt from residents tax on interest in terms of the Twenty First Schedule to the same Act. Kindly note that the ..... is also exempt from Capital Gains Tax in terms of the Capital Gains Tax Act [Chapter 23:01]
Note that you must submit annual financial statements of the ......to the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority every year for his perusal.'
Last year this procedure was changed by Zimra and Mr. M. Govha explained that in future all exempt bodies would be required to complete tax forms annually. He advised that all the files of such exempt bodies would be transferred to the individual offices and would no longer be dealt with at Head Office. He further advised that each such exempt body had received a letter from his office to this effect. Sadly, in the cases we manage only once was such advice received.
I queried what had changed to persuade Zimra hierarchy that bodies who were exempt and did not receive any taxable income and therefore in the past were not required to complete tax forms were now required to complete tax forms. I was advised there were several factors that forced Zimra to change their long standing practice:
-Charitable, community, social and sporting bodies and associations were no longer applying for exemption status, they were simply ignoring their obligations in terms of the Act
-Some of them were being used as vehicles to escape personal tax and were being used as additional tax free funds for one or two beneficiaries.
-Recognised exempt bodies were failing to furnish the Commissioner -General with accounts as required.
Mr. Govha and I discussed the points at issue. The provisions of the Income Tax Act which govern the obligation to complete tax forms are Section 37 and 37A. The section clearly states that the Commissioner shall annually give public notice that all persons who fall within any of the classifications prescribed in such notice ..are required, within 30 days to furnish returns for assessment. The notice for the tax year ended 31.12.2016 clearly says '...to all persons who received income or gains...'
In the past if you did not receive any income which is defined as 'gross income less exemptions = 'income' you were not obliged to complete and submit tax forms. However, the inclusion of the word 'gains' widens the tax obligation to submit tax forms to include cases where bodies have exempt income as their only resource.
Last year Zimra audited two group housing complexes and raised vat returns going back to 2009 with full penalties. That case is before our courts and we await judgment. Zimra also looked at a conservation society, two schools, a church, an old Age Home and several so called charitable trusts.
If you believe you are an exempt body but have not secured the Commissioner-Generals approval that you are such a body, or alternatively if you have a certificate from the Commissioner- General confirming your exempt status but have not complied with your obligation to furnish annual accounts to his office , I strongly suggest you seize the moment and take advantage of the current amnesty which expires on the 30 June, 2018 in order to regularise your tax affairs so that you secure relief from penalties and interest charges.