by Alagi Yorro Jallow
Mamudu: Unfortunately, it is often true; the story of the hunt glorifies the hunter. The lack of punishment for tax evasion and is a sham. Is justice equal for all: We seem to write our laws for the poor alone. What is the price to pay these crooks when there is vodka with higher price tags that they drink without giving the price a thought? What is preventing prosecution of the Gambia’s economic saboteurs and thieves? According to the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) Valued-Added Tax Act 2012, tax evasion is a serious crime and a felony.
A successful conviction requires that the prosecution proves that tax liability does exist, the defendant took specific actions to evade, or in an attempt to evade paying tax, the defendant had specific intent to evade his legal obligation of paying tax to the state.
Mamudu: Tax evasion is a serious offense and a crime that is easy to prove. It can be used to haul our traducers in jail while the case against embezzlement, conversion, and outright theft are being prepared. Only in the Gambia, the rich and the powerful are those who are involved in immoral enterprises often engage in tax evasion. The Tax Commission Inquiry 2012 prove that belief. Those rich and powerful do so because reporting their real incomes would serve as an admission of guilt and could result in criminal charges. They understand they cannot report these earnings as coming from a legitimate source lest they face money laundering charges. There are many ways to catch economic saboteurs. A classical case is the Tax Commission of Inquiry 2012 is one of them. Let those in authority act now!
How long do we have to wait before prosecuting those who brought the Gambia to its knees economically? It is hard to trace stolen money because our unique brand of thieves has perfected the art of offshoring their loot, and domestically, they use fronts to cover their tracks. The recovery work is made harder by the very informal economy. The cash-heavy nature of internal transactions and the existence of so much money outside the banking structures have been and milked to their utmost advantage by having cash-only transactions leaving little or no paper trail. Even after the Central Bank of the Gambia cashless policy, they have a way of colluding with bank staff who need deposits and easy cash, to circumvent the system.
Mamudu: Tax evasion in the Gambia is easy to prosecute because malicious intent can easily be proven. The Gambia’s tax laws to paraphrase provides that, any person who default to deduct any tax under the laws of the Tax Act and fails to deduct, fails to pay tax within a number of days or date the amount to pay to the tax authorities the time the duty to deduct arose, commits an offense and shall, upon conviction, be liable to pay the tax withheld or not remitted in addition to a penalty with percentage of the tax withheld or not remitted per annum and interest and risk imprisonment for period time in jail.
Gambia’s Tax laws, concealing income is considered fraudulent. Many Gambians do not even file taxes except when they need tax clearance to process official documents. Many are guilty of deliberately under-reporting or omitting income in their filling. Many business owners do not report an accurate amount of receipts. Most of the Gambia’s well-connected thieves are landlords because a massive chunk of their investments is in real estate as a store of value. Do they report rent payments? Most of them, if not all, are business owners or directors in corporations. In their businesses, they often keep two sets of books: one for them and one for the GRA men. They make false entries in their books and records in the form of accounting irregularities, such as a failure to keep good records, or a mismatch between what is being declared on their company’s return and what is on the financial statements. This kind of shoddy record-keeping generally demonstrates fraudulent intent. Granted that the veil of corporations may not be pierced, but the same thing obtains in their finances. Without a robust identity scheme, many of them claim false or overstated deductions in their tax filling, if they ever file.
Mamudu: Instances abound where civil servants claim oversized deductions that they are not entitled to pay taxes. Many businesses and corporations connive to put most of their directors (mostly politically exposed persons) earnings as allowances, so they are not taxed. In a nation with cloudy ethical markers, these big-time frauds pass off personal expenses as business expenses to their respective ministries and agencies, and that is malicious. Of course, we are very much aware that most of them have hidden or transferred their assets and or income to fronts and cronies. These are splendid grounds for prosecutorial success. Tax fraud can take a variety of forms. It can be as simple as concealment of funds in a bank account or as sham transactions where they label a transaction differently to avoid income tax liability. Many of these folks are skilled at using nebulous means to conceal offshoring of funds to tax havens by using shell companies. Since they are avid consumers of luxury goods and foreign products, they also fall into the trap of fraudulent evasion of excise duty on imported goods? Has anyone asked what they paid on all the bulletproof and exotic cars in their garage?
Mamudu: Apart from tax evasion, the charge of cheating the public revenue is a common-law offense. Cheating the public revenue is a conduct offense; the prosecutor does not need to prove that the defendant caused any actual loss. Why are we not dragging dishonorable public officers into the net under these offenses? To those who evade paying taxes, there must be a punishment.
Mamudu: The 2012 Tax Commission of Inquiry and the Supreme Court of the Gambia have successfully concluded that that the Tax Commission of Inquiry proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that unpaid tax liability does exist by those adversely mentioned in the Tax report found culpable. According to the government White Paper, those adversely mentioned, including Ousainou Darboe, did not take specific actions of paying taxes they owed to the government. The defendant had specific intent to evade their legal obligation of paying tax to the state ruled the Government White Paper.
by Alagi Yorro Jallow