Tax Audits

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TAX AUDITS

 

  1. 1. What is a tax audit?

-        A tax audit is a close examination of the tax issues of a taxpayer to verify the correct treatment of the taxpayer’s business transactions for tax purposes

-        Audits may reveal inaccuracies or incorrect treatment of transactions or transaction components that may result in the adjustments (upwards or downwards) of taxes due from or paid by the taxpayer.

-        Audits carry the force of law under the various statutes administered by ZIMRA.

 

 

What are the obligations of the taxpayers in ensuring compliance?

 

 

Taxpayers are expected to:

  1. Submit tax returns for the various taxes they are registered for, or required to be registered for. Returns can be for Value Added Tax, Income Tax, Pay As You Earn, Withholding Taxes, and/or Capital Gains Tax.
  2. Remit tax collected or due as shown on the returns submitted.
  3. Maintain records of the business in support of the returns and payments of tax. The records include sales invoices, purchase invoices, credit and debit notes, financial statements, management accounts, financial statements, cash books, ledgers, delivery books, and payrolls, among others. These records can be manual or computerised.

How does ZIMRA verify returns and payments made by the taxpayers?

ZIMRA carries out tax audits or investigations to confirm the correctness of returns and payments. To carry out the audits or investigations, ZIMRA Officials may visit clients’ premises or call the clients to ZIMRA Offices.

A tax audit is a systematic and independent examination conducted by ZIMRA to determine whether a client has correctly declared their tax liability and complies with the provisions of the tax laws and related subsidiary legislation.

 

Who can be audited or investigated?

Any person can be audited or investigated by ZIMRA as long as there are grounds for the audit, which can be income earned or tax collected. Individuals, companies, trusts, and partners, among others, can all be audited. The audits are based on a risk assessment system employed to select cases for audit.

 

Given that the audits are based on risk assessment, the frequency and timing of audits cannot be calculated for each taxpayer. It, therefore, means that as long as the risk is established, the taxpayer will be subjected to audit, even though he may have been audited before.

 

It is important to note that the bulk of the taxes payable to ZIMRA are based on self-assessment by taxpayers. While this carries a greater need for accuracy and compliance on the part of the taxpayer, there still is a need for ZIMRA to carry out verification audits.

What are the types of audits?

There are different audit types that the auditor can conduct in fulfilling his/her duties at ZIMRA.

Inspections

An Inspection is an examination of records or documents or devices, whether internal or external, in paper form, electronic form, or other media, or a physical examination of an asset.

Compliance audit

It is a review of all tax heads for adherence to all statutory requirements.

Desk audit

This is a limited scope exanimation of documents and records away from the place of business that is done within the office of ZIMRA.

Comprehensive/Field audit

A comprehensive audit is an audit of a client which includes one or more tax heads where there is suspicion of non-compliance.

Project audits

The intention is to target specific industries/ sectors and audit their activities and ascertain the risk areas and select certain issues for in-depth reviews or investigations or research. Examples will be an audit of the Transport Industry, Asset Management Companies, the Banking Sector, Motor Dealers, among others.

Third party audits

These are cases referred/selected for audit on the basis of information supplied by anonymous/third parties either for reward or patriotism.

Spin offs

These are related cases resulting from ongoing audit/investigations of related entities, other companies, or individuals doing business with the entity being audited/investigated. Basically observations on transactions between two or more entities can lead to the audit of the other players. In other words, the scope of the audit “spins-off” towards issues that may not have been planned for that particular audit.

How is the audit conducted by ZIMRA?

  1. Audit cases are allocated to ZIMRA Officials who are duly authorised to carry out the audit before they start any work.
  2. The assigned official will establish preliminary details about the targeted taxpayer, for instance addresses, contact numbers, contact persons, nature of business, among others.
  3. An appointment will be set with the Public Officer or person responsible for the targeted taxpayer to start the audit. However, depending on the nature of the audit this part may be dispensed with.
  4. For example, where it is determined that the appropriate strategy is to proceed with an audit without prior notification to the targeted taxpayer in cases where notification is likely to cause the taxpayer to conceal valuable evidence such as records, ZIMRA will proceed to the taxpayer and notify them of the intention to audit on arrival.
  5. This occurs in extreme cases where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that he taxpayer may not be forthcoming with required information.
  6. On the agreed date, the Officers will visit the client’s premises or call the client to ZIMRA Offices for the first interview. At this first meeting the officers will ask questions using a standard questionnaire.
  7. They also clarify issues of interest during the meeting.  The interviewee will be given the completed questionnaire to read and confirm by appending signature that it’s a correct record.
  8. ZIMRA officials will also request to be taken through the business processes and premises for familiarisation.
  9. A request may be made for specific records or equipment to be availed on an agreed date. A receipt for the records will be issued.

10. Thereafter, the Officials will analyse all the information and return to present findings of the audit. The audited person is given an opportunity to respond to the findings.

11. Where there are any underpayments of tax, assessments will be raised and client will be requested to pay the tax, including any penalties that may be due.

What is a taxpayer expected to do during the audit?

The taxpayer is expected to:

a)    Provide working space for the officials and where space is not available, to advise the officials.

b)   Cooperate with the requests and requirements of the officials.

c)    Voluntarily provide any information of known irregularities.

d)   Provide records or equipment requested without delay.

e)    Not to pay tax in cash or kind to an Officer but if any tax should be paid this should be paid to the account of the Commissioner General at the banks.

f)     Not offer or give gifts/bribes to ZIMRA Officials. ZIMRA officials are not permitted to take gifts from clients.

g)   Not to chase away, threaten or fight ZIMRA Officials.

How does one know whether the officials auditing him are from ZIMRA?

  1. ZIMRA officials are not permitted to carry out the audit alone. There should be at least two Officials.
  2. The Officials must be carrying valid ZIMRA ID Cards.
  3. The cards show the official’s full names, ID number, validity date and the name and logo of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority as well as the Commissioner General’s Signature and the signature of the holder.
  4. Where taxpayers are in doubt as to the identity of the person approaching them for an audit, they should contact their nearest ZIMRA Offices to confirm.

How are objections handled by ZIMRA?

  1. Where a taxpayer is dissatisfied with decisions made or assessments raised by the Commissioner, an objection can be made by writing a letter to ZIMRA.
  2. The letter must state the grounds of objection and should be submitted within 30 days of the decision or assessment.
  3. The Commissioner will consider the objection and is required by law to respond within 90 days.
  4. The response will be either to agree with the taxpayer or to disallow the grounds of objection.
  5. Where the objection is disallowed, the client can appeal to the Fiscal Appeals Court or High Court.

 

 

 

 
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