Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

The battle has just begun

THIS week’s prosecution of prominent businessmen, Osman Moosa, for tax evasion should serve as a warning to other people who thought they could get away with dodging tax.
Moosa, who is also the chairman of the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho, was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison by the High Court on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to 51 charges related to tax evasion.
Moosa will however avoid jail because his lawyers managed to negotiate a plea bargain deal that allows him to pay a M500 000 fine in lieu of the six-year sentence.
The other six years have been suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted for any crime related to tax evasion.
His company, Selkol 1983, was fined M1.5 million and ordered to settle its M4 million tax obligation to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).
Shameen, Moosa’s son, got a three-year jail sentence or a M100 000 fine.
Moosa, Selkol 1983 and Shameen were facing 316 charges related to tax evasion and fraud.
While we believe that Moosa and his co-accused might have gotten off a little lightly we would like to congratulate the LRA for its determination to deal with prominent tax dodgers in this country.
That Moosa, a businessman once thought to be untouchable, was caught and successfully prosecuted is a massive victory for the revenue authority.
For years, some local business people have hoodwinked the revenue authority.
They have avoided paying their fair share of tax by using deliberate misrepresentations and understating their obligations.
That is because the LRA of the past was seen as a toothless watchdog that concentrated on catching the “small man” for seemingly minor transgressions while big companies and prominent business people were ducking tax and costing this country millions in potential revenue.
But now it seems that the LRA has cleaned up its act.
Moosa’s prosecution is a result of that renewed vigour that seems to have taken root at the revenue authority.
More business people are already under investigation for tax evasion and we hope the LRA will maintain this momentum.
This vigilance should be maintained especially at a time when revenue from the Southern African Customs Union, which used to provide us with 65 percent of our annual budget in good years, is drying up.
Prudence in revenue collection will help this country get through the next few “lean” years.
Yet in celebrating the successful prosecution of Moosa and his co-accused the LRA must remember that the worst is still to come.
As the economic recession bites more business will try every trick in the book to pay less tax than they should.
More business people are likely to cook-up their books in order to pay less tax.
There will be smuggling and the use of dodgy invoices will become rampant.
It is not inconceivable that some revenue officers will be compromised in the process.
Accounts will be “engineered” to understate tax obligations.
These and other tricks mean that the LRA must now be more alert than ever.
In prosecuting Moosa and his co-accused the LRA has won a battle but not the war against tax dodgers.
There will be more challenging cases to be investigated and prosecuted along the way.
In the meantime, the LRA must use the publicity that comes with the prosecution of such high-profile people like Moosa to remind the public that tax dodgers can run but they will eventually be caught.
It’s a message the LRA must continue to spread for
as long as it is responsible for collecting taxes in this country.

Comments are closed.