Both the Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRA) and trade ministry need to be more flexible and have shorter turnaround times. This was stressed by trade minister Lucia Iipumbu who said the mainstreaming and streamlining of systems and procedures by both institutions are necessary as they currently mostly operate in silos.
Iipumbu made these remarks during a NamRA delegation courtesy visit to her office on Monday, 4 July 2022. The delegation was led by NamRA commissioner Sam Shivute, who shared its vision and objectives relevant to the trade ministry and enhancement of trade facilitation in the country. This was NamRA’s first ministerial courtesy call since its inception in 2021.
Addressing the four-member delegation, Iipumbu said the visit sets pace for future engagements as well as future work for both the ministry and the agency.
Among the points of discussion were the operationalisation of one-stop-border posts, addressing issues such as reducing congestion at borders, and prioritisation of harmonising operational hours at the border posts.
The smuggling of fuel into the country, and fast tracking of the automotive industry and reduction of imports of vehicles was also highlighted during the meeting.
The trade minister also stressed the urgency to assist Namibian entrepreneurs as well as suppliers and producers, particularly in the poultry industry, who are no longer able to compete with their foreign counterparts offering cheaper products to consumers.
She further indicated the ministry has received numerous complaints related to the quality of imported goods, and labour and compliance issues, adding the ministry needs to strengthen its inspection mandate at business premises.
The trade ministry is mandated to accelerate economic growth and reduce income inequality. The ministry also facilitates the promotion of growth and development of the economy through the formulation and implementation of appropriate policies to attract investment, increase trade, develop and expand the country’s industrial base.
Tax refund scam
Earlier this week, New Era reported on a N$15.2 million tax refund scam uncovered by the NamRA earlier this year, which has since increased to more than N$36 million.
According to Shivute, at the end of February this year, just over 43 000 natural persons were registered as provisional taxpayers. From March 2018 to February 2022, only 6 268 of these taxpayers claimed and received tax refunds for the different types of taxes, worth more than N$950 million. Of this amount, N$496 million was paid out in the form of income tax refunds to 4 746 taxpayers.
“This group of taxpayers remains the subject of the continuing investigation, which in some instances has been concluded and criminal cases have been lodged with the Namibian Police,” Shivute confirmed.
The NamRA chief said the scam originated long before the revenue agency came into existence, and that the illegal doings came to the fore as activities escalated in 2019, causing NamRA to commence with an investigation.
The taxpayers involved apparently fall within the N$250 000 to N$350 000 income bracket, and are from different sectors.
The commissioner thus encouraged those who might have unwittingly benefited from the scam to engage NamRA offices countrywide to aid the investigation in exposing the true masterminds of the scam.
As an immediate intervention, the agency said it will invoke Section 91 of the Income Tax Act 1981 to recover paid refunds where the facts show no basis for such claims, by appointing financial institutions and employers as agents to collect such amounts.
As a mitigating measure, the processing of all tax refund claims for individual provisional taxpayers were halted with immediate effect following the detection of the scam until 30 June 2022.
This moratorium was lifted for taxpayers not part of the target group, and hence such claims were processed last week. The payment suspension was intended to determine the full extent of the scam and its real impact on the public purse.