Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
Lifestyle audits seem to send tremors down the spines of most. One can only surmise that the guilty are afraid. It certainly is not a crime to live a healthy, wealthy and prosperous life. God Himself intended that we live our lives to the full, but the problem only comes when the means are dubious or when what belongs to Caesar is not surrendered unto Caesar.
There has been interesting debate over the last few weeks regarding the lifestyle audits that the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) intends to undertake internally and on the generality of Zimbabweans, particularly on those that seem to be doing too well, ahead of what is reflected on their payslips or the tuckshops and other small businesses they run.
This raises a certain level of suspicion. Zimra can be excused for prying or getting a bit too interested in such circumstances, particularly when they are as hungry as they are to have every penny they can lay their hands on. Treasury has not been too kind in its demands from the tax collector, understandably so.
Many facets of this country are yearning for resources and these have not exactly been available in the required amounts, if at all. There are many in this country whose riches have been adjudged to be way ahead of their income, and corruption watchdogs believe these could be acquiring their wealth through shady means.
Indeed, there are high chances that the revenue body will unearth shocking and even gory cases once it gets down to business. There are many nouveaux riches in this country who would stammer continuously in their efforts to explain how or where they got their riches.
Of course, the wealth distribution is not along political party lines as some analysts would want us to believe, but we presume it cuts across the board. Zimbabwe definitely needs to redress any instances that are found to be falling within illicit brackets.
Someone remarked this other day that corruption is the worst factor that has inflicted so much harm on the economy over the past few decades and I tend to agree. At least $1 billion is lost annually as a result of this vice.
So, yes, lifestyle audits are one sure way of unearthing the elements that are at the forefront of compromising efforts to reinvigorate the economy.
More often people are engaged in illicit business transactions to the detriment of the nation at large. As stated earlier, we certainly hold no brief for those who truly earn their keep by fair means. But they too must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.
Of course, we have had people express reservations over the lifestyle audits. They may have their reasons but in most instances it is those involved in clandestine practices who are bound to stridently object. That should, however, not stop the juggernaut. The propensity to lead opulent lives from criminal activities is an indictment on our systems
We have our youths who now believe that huge financial rewards can be accumulated with neither education nor tangible productivity! What ethos are we promoting?
Is it in human nature to want to reap where we did not sow? How sustainable is it? What legacy do we leave behind?
The term “hustling” is in vogue these days and includes activities you wouldn’t want your mother to hear about. It seems it matters not how one gets money, by means fair and foul goes. We seem to fixate on material gains by any means necessary and damn the con- sequences.
We are inherently and intrinsically a cultured people but this manifest materialism threatens to obliterate our every ounce of decency. We are parents, collegues, leaders. Our actions should be consistent with this enormous responsibility.
In some instances it has been a free for all with people manipulating loopholes, deficiencies and lax systems. We are on the whole guilty of acts of omission.
The envisaged lifestyle audits by Zimra have the dual effect of augmenting revenue and enhancing transparency and accountability. We fully appreciate the multiple financial obligations in the face of declining inflows. That raises the need to explore all avenues for revenue.
In that, we all support Team Zimra as they discharge their constitutional mandate.
Such efforts need our collective support. They are progressive and we will not hesitate to impugn those efforts that are tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
On the other hand, Zimra will need to be as professional as they can be. No targeting of individuals to settle personal scores or achieve any other obscene means save for ensuring Treasury gets its dues while those that are found guilty must face the full wrath of the law.
Zimra should also use the opportunity to assess its operations and deal with any provisions that may encourage rather than discourage tax evasion, avoidance or any such illicit behaviour. Our tax bands and threshold must, as a necessity, be responsive to practicalities. It makes no sense to stifle sources of revenue. The results of such are always telling. All endeavours must be predicated on sustainable national interest
All must be made aware that taxes are a necessary evil. This is a universal phenomenon.
Two of the world’s top footballers, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have the spectre of tax charges hanging over their heads. Film star Wesley Snipes was jailed for years for tax crimes. No one is spared. Non-compliance spells doom.
As we move towards financial inclusivity for nascent businesses, we need to be alive to small businesses concerns, some of which are very valid. Let’s get buy-in and the processes must be user-friendly. Then we can expand the cake
As for those who cry foul at the mere mention of such audits, it’s the chickens coming home to roost. The ever present danger of criminality is fear. Fear of being caught, fear of exposure, fear of imprisonment and fear of a dead end. That is invariably the price one pays for engaging in such obnoxious acts.
This toxic orientation to consume without producing is our Achilles heel as a country. It behoves the powers that be and all concerned to take remedial measures. Justice must not just be done, but must be seen to be done. Perception is reality.
In God I Trust!