By NATION REPORTER
AN impending audit of the Prime TV by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has elicited a strong protest from UPND president Hakainde Hichilema who has accused Government of intentions to kill the station.
The protest has however raised eyebrows following revelations that other media houses including MUVI, Komboni, and others had been served with similar letters and that ZRA last week met media houses to discuss the exercise.
Mr. Hichilema has come to the defence of Prime TV, accusing Government of trying to muzzle the station after a letter form ZRA about the auditing of the station was shared in most social media platforms.
But one of the media houses that received the letter from ZRA explained that this was a routine audit adding that every year, ZRA drew up an auditing schedule for different companies and industries and the time for media houses was now.
One media house got its first letter from ZRA in November but that because of prior engagements, it requested for an extension of time and that ZRA sent the second letter at the end of January.
The auditing of media houses by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) must never be misconstrued as a fight between Prime TV and Government because all of us have received letters after the authority engaged us to clarify the issue, media houses have said.
Mr. Hichilema accused the PF of trying to destroy Prime TV for political reasons and for the self-centeredness that they were allegedly exhibiting at the moment.
“It is not the duty of any decent government to destroy local businesses, because along the way you destroy jobs, you destroy even the confidence and the trust that the investors will have in the economy.
“ZRA must therefore withdraw its predatory activities at Prime Television now, otherwise we will all agree, even those who initially doubted that the PF is a fully blown dictatorship. Such victimization must end forthwith,” Mr Hichilema said.
But some media houses spoken to told the Daily Nation on condition of anonymity that Prime TV was being mischievous to share their letter on all social media platform to gain sympathy that they were being victimized when they were part of the meeting at which the audit was clearly explained to them.
The media owners said through the engagements, they had realised that they were entitled to ZRA VAT refunds most which were not claiming such monies, leaving companies, especially those in mining to enjoy the benefit alone.
“They are being mischievous. All media owners were engaged before the audit began. An audit is more of a compliance check where instead of an organisation hiring a tax consultant, to come and help with our taxes, ZRA comes as our consultant to deal with our tax matters.
“At the time ZRA is conducting your audit, they are not really looking at things from the perspective of ZRA but they are on our side. Officers will come and sit with us, we open up to them and they will tell us for example, that we have been trading for three years yet we have never gotten a tax refund yet we qualify and then they will show you how it is done,” one of the media owners said.
Another media owner said because of ignorance, they were losing money which was entitled to them, and said with ZRA’s engagement with them, they now knew that they were entitled to such benefits which their accountants may not have an idea about.
“At the end of the day, ZRA keeps on refunding big companies like the mines because they hire experts to provide advice on tax. This audit is aimed at teaching us on how to do it. There is nothing sinister or illegal about it.
“We all have the letters for the audits. How then must it be an issue when it comes to Prime TV yet it is a non-issue to other media institutions? Prime TV must not take an antagonistic approach to everything otherwise, they will not find it easy to operate,” the media owner said.
By NATION REPORTER