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Sierra Leone Business: ACC closes St Mary’s for GST payments since 2010

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has on Friday 2nd November, 2018, ordered the closure of St. Mary’s Supermarket for allegedly defaulting on Goods and Services Tax (GST) since 2010, but no arrest was made. ACC Head of Outreach Abu Bakarr Turay said that the Commission will now engage the National Revenue Authority (NRA) to ascertain the total amount owed by the Supermarket with respect to the GST claims. When asked whether the operation was done in collaboration with the NRA, he said no, but that they are working closely with them so that they can give them the records. The supermarket he said will be closed until payment is made on what they owe government. The Commission also raided other business entities of which proof of GST payments were presented to the officials. According to Act No. 6 of 1991, “corruption” means an act which constitutes an offence under Part IV of this Act and includes – (h) any offence involving dishonesty in connection with any tax, rate, charge or levy imposed under any enactment. In the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008 under the provision titled Protection of public property and revenue, Section 48. (1) (d) states that… “Any person who fraudulently or otherwise Unlawfully fails to pay any taxes or any fees, levies or charges payable to any public body or effects or obtains any exemption, remission, reduction or abatement from payment of any such taxes, fees, levies or charges, commits an offence. Sierra Leone’s GST is a modern form of sales tax, which is a tax on the domestic consumption of imported and locally-produced goods and/or services, paid as a percentage of their value at the time they are imported, sold, exchanged, or delivered. From the start date of 1st September 2009, GST is applied at a single rate of 15% on the majority of goods and services including imports supplied in Sierra Leone for local use or benefit. It replaces seven existing taxes, which are Import Sales Tax, Domestic Sales Tax, Entertainment Tax, Restaurant and Food Tax, Messages Tax, Hotel Accommodation Tax and Professional Services Tax, thereby simplifying and streamlining the present system of indirect taxation and reducing the cost of administration. Under the Goods and Services Tax Act of 2009, Part XV–Interest, Penalties and Offences section 56. (1) states that A person who fails to pay GST payable to the National Revenue Authority under this Act by the due date for payment is liable for interest on the amount unpaid at the Bank of Sierra Leone lending rate calculated from the date the payment was due to the date the payment was or is made. It went further to address the issue of tax evasion in section 75. (1), it reads “… A person who is knowingly concerned in or taking steps with a view to, the fraudulent evasion of GST by him or any other person, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding the greater of Le 5,000,000 or 100% of the GST evaded or sought to be evaded or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both the fine and imprisonment.” Moreover, the amount of any assessment issued as a result of the audit of the accounts of taxable persons by the Commissioner General shall include interest and where the Commissioner-General can demonstrate by notice in writing that he has reasonable grounds to suspect that any or all of the GST underpaid or overclaimed is as a result of a deliberate act of evasion, penalties calculated in accordance with section 58 from the date on which the liability arose to the date of issuance of the assessment shall apply.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday November 05, 2018.

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