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The media was yesterday barred from covering proceedings in the Fiscal Court of Appeal which began hearing appeals by corporates challenging the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s tax system.

Journalists who sought to cover the hearings were barred after Aocate Adrian de Bourbon who is representing a company whose appeal was heard yesterday and had applied for the ejection of the scribes from the court citing the Income Tax Act, which prohibits the public from attending the hearings.

“Members of the Press have no right to cover these proceedings in terms of Section 65 (7) of the Income Tax Act,” he said.

“All appeals are heard in private to protect the names of the companies.”

Section 65 (7) of the Income Tax Act, states that: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law, the sittings of the High Court and of the Special Court for the hearings of appeals under this section shall not be public and either the High Court or the Special Court shall at any time, on the application of the appellant, exclude from such sittings, or require to withdraw there from, all or any persons whosoever whose attendance is not necessary for the hearings of the appeal under consideration: Provided that the High Court or the Special Court may authorise the publication of the legal considerations on which its judgement in any case is based”.

Justice Samuel Kudya agreed with A de Bourbon and ordered journalists to leave the court.

“It is unfortunate, in terms of Section 65 (7) of the Income Tax Act, members of the media are not required to cover the proceedings and may I ask you to be excused,” Justice Kudya said.

Before the proceedings started, A de Bourbon fumed over a report in yesterday’s edition about Zimra’s court battle with corporates over the tax system.

“These cases are not supposed to be reported,” he said.

“The Herald should be prosecuted for what it has done, but I know it won’t be prosecuted.”

The court yesterday heard its first appeal and reserved judgment and the hearings will continue today.

A large number of corporates are suing Zimra over punitive garnishee orders issued on their accounts and major debtors for outstanding taxes running into millions of dollars.

Zimra has come under heavy criticism for garnishing the corporates’ accounts at a time many companies are saddled with serious viability challenges.

According to the law, the Fiscal Court of Appeal should have decided on the cases within three months, but the prescribed period has since lapsed in many of the cases.

The delays in hearing the appeals forced many companies to approach the High and Constitutional Courts to stop Zimra from garnishing their accounts.

The companies argued that Zimra’s radical approach to collect tax arrears would drive them into liquidation.

Source : The Herald