For many years Tanzania businesses have been complaining of the delay in tax refunds resulting from VAT and the 15% additional upfront payment on industrial sugar. The 2018 CTI study on the performance of Tanzania Industries among others found that many manufactures in Tanzanian are currently facing a serious cash flow problem arising from huge outstanding tax claims/refunds from the Tanzania Revenue Authorities (TRA). The outstanding tax refunds arise from the VAT refunds (inward and outward difference) for manufacturers who are also exporters while the other cash flow challenge arises from the delay in refunds for the 15 percent additional import duty for refined industrial sugar. This problem was also cited by businesses that are VAT registered in sectors such as construction, mining, agriculture and others; both locally owned and international companies operating in Tanzania. With these concerns from its members and other sectors, the Confederation for Tanzania Industries (CTI) as an umbrella organization for Tanzanian manufactures decided to undertake this study to determine the extent of the magnitude of the impact of the delay in tax refunds to Tanzania manufacturers.
The main objective of this study was to provide a comprehensive analysis of the manufacturers’ claims on tax refunds (VAT, Import duty, and other tax refunds) and its impact in the Tanzanian economy. Specifically, the analysis aimed to achieve the following objectives: to determine the amount of claims for tax refunds due from the GOT (VAT and other refunds e.g. 15% additional import duty) by CTI members; to find out time taken to refund VAT and other refund claims by the business community; to analyze the impact of delays in refund of tax claims (VAT and other claims such as import duty due from exporters etc.)
This study was based on both primary and secondary information whereby a desk review of key documents was done to gain a deeper understanding on the documented literature on the impact of delays in refunds (VAT and 15% additional import duty) in Tanzania. Individual interviews and consultations were also held with executive officers/representatives for umbrella organizations such the TPSF, CTI, and Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC). Information was collected from Tanzanian manufactures included: the impact of delays in VAT refunds; for both industrial importers and exporters, amount held by GoT as claims from industrial owners and its effects such impact in terms of profitability, costs in businesses, time spend for accounting and follow up and length of time taken for refunds and how these delays affect national or international competitiveness of Tanzanians industrial producers (if any). Secondary sources of information include recent literature on VAT refund issues in Tanzania, online reports (studies), data was also sourced from the Tanzania Revenue Authority website (www.tra.go.tz), and various papers covering refund issues.
- Regarding tax refunds, this study finds that most of the businesses including manufactures have not received any tax refunds for the past 2-3 years. Sectors leading in huge outstanding tax refunds include: Construction, Mining, trade in goods and services, industrial (exporters and importers) and agriculture. Data taken from TRA website indicates that tax refunds done for the past 4 financial year’s amounts to only 1.52 trillion while the figure for outstanding refunds amounts to TZS 2.3 trillion. Implying that a huge some of funds remain un-refunded and such outstanding tax refunds is not budgeted for in a 2018/19 financial year; meaning that the problem will still exist in future financial years. Again, the study finds a declining trend in both tax refunds payments and amount of funds set aside for refunds by TRA during the past 3 years. This trend partly explains the reason for the increase in outstanding tax refunds claims which is now approximated at 7.2% of the total budget for FY 2018/19
- The study finds that the length of time taken for tax refund claims differ by sectors while in some sectors the average time for refund is one year; others it ranges between two to three (3) years.
- According to the interviewed businesses the delays in VAT and 15% upfront payment for industrial sugar refunds have had negative impact on manufacturers and to the economy at large. The impacts include; serious cash flow problems and increased business liabilities resulting from outstanding claims for tax refunds, high interests’ expenses in loans from commercial banks as they have to borrow additional funds to pay for tax when due; the cost is also in terms of interest expenses of between 7-13% of the either short or long-term loans (overdrafts). The other impact of the delay in tax refunds include; decline in credit rates due delays or failure to pay for the credit facilities(loans/overdraft); increase in business operation costs leading to stagnated growth of industrialization as some manufactures have stopped production for exports commodities that attracts VAT and 15% additional import duty that is hardly refunded. Manufactures also indicated other impacts of the delay in refunds included; stagnated investments and productions while others had to retrench employees to cope with the reduced production capacities; others said that delay in tax refunds cause time wastage and other transaction costs due to accounting and follow ups, letter writing and making visits to government offices. According to interviewed businesses, all these create red tapes for businesses and have multiplier effects that constrain industrial growth in Tanzania and distort the businesses environment. The survey team could not get some data to justify the claims made by some businesses regarding the impact of the tax refund delays. However, as the outstanding tax refunds have been cleared through audits hence represent business funds tied up in the Revenue Authority (TRA) for more than 2 years now for sure there are negative impacts/costs associated with delays in tax refund challenges.
Based on the study findings three policy considerations are put forward.
- Pay outstanding tax refunds with interests
The Tanzania businesses including Tanzania Industrial owners are requesting the GoT to repay the long outstanding tax refunds (VAT and 15% additional import duty) plus interest charges as stated in the refund procedures. This will party improving the business environment in the country as this study and many others have established that one element that worsens the business environment is existence of long outstanding un-refunded tax.
- Abolish application of 15% additional import duty for industrial sugar
The 15% additional import tax for industrial sugar is just a practice and is not stated in any Tanzania tax laws; it thus violets the EAC custom procedures and makes Tanzania manufactures disadvantaged as it increases business costs and thus makes the business environment worse. This is purely done for administrative process due to weak tax administration system and does not solve the anticipated problem; instead it imposed more negative impacts in businesses than benefits in the economy. To improve the business environment, the GoT is requested to stop its application immediately.
- Open special Reserve Account for VAT refunds
Open the earlier planned Special Escrow Account that will be reserving funds projected for VAT refunds that is common in all countries with VAT systems. This is because with the VAT system, the differences between input and Output VAT may result into negative balances in businesses; implying that businesses have to be refunded on such negative balance amounts. Hence, a need to have reserved funds in a special account for making re-payments; the account would significantly help to solve the problem. However, with the past experiences in operation for Special Escrow Accounts such reserves need strict controls and supervisions to avoid funds misuse. END