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Zimra can impound previously cleared goods

by Staff reporter
01 Mar 2018 at 08:16hrs | Views
THE High Court has ruled in favour of post-clearance audits by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), a decision that will allow the tax collector to impound previously cleared goods in cases of underpayment of duty.

Masvingo High Court judge, Justice Joseph Mafusire, made the ruling in three cases involving vehicles that had been under-valued in a bid to cheat the tax collector.

Main Road Motors, Sylvia Choruwa and Patrick Muguti, who imported vehicles in November 2015, March 2016 and October 2016 respectively, had challenged the legality of ZIMRA's decision to impound their vehicles, demanding additional duties after post-clearance audits.

In the three separate cases, which Mafusire treated as one, the three applicants argued that once the vehicles had been cleared and released to them, they had become their personal property and any attempt to seize and or embargo them as ZIMRA had done was unlawful, because such conduct violated their inalienable right to property as enshrined in Section 71 of the Constitution.

ZIMRA justified its actions based on Section 192 (1) of the Customs Act, which allows for the seizure of goods discovered to have been improperly cleared within a period of six years from date of importation.

However, the authority argued that the three cases should not be heard by the court on technical grounds.

The first was that the three had not given the requisite 60-day notice required by the law before suing a State institution. The second was that the three applicants had not challenged the authority's actions within the fixed time of eight weeks from the time the cause for action arose. The third was that the applicants had approached the courts with "dirty hands" because they had violated the fiscal principle that says pay-now-and-argue-later by approaching the courts when the demanded amounts had not been settled.

The court agreed that all the three applicants were time barred because they had approached the courts more than six months later, in addition to running afoul of the other two technical objections raised by ZIMRA's lawyers.

"Statutes of limitation are a common factor of legal life the world over. The law helps the vigilant, not the sluggard. The rationale for the existence of such limitations is expediency. It is logical and practical that civil suits be brought within certain time frames," Mafusire ruled as he dismissed the applications.

The judge also ruled that ZIMRA's actions did not in any way infringe on the constitutional rights of the applicants.

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Source - fingaz