March 23, 2004

Opposition MPs lose again to amend controversial income tax

Opposition backbenchers have lost a second attempt to amend the controversial proposed income tax bands by effecting a reduction of five per cent in all categories after three separate votes by division. The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) polled 58 against 51 for opposition on the proposal to reduce the highest tax threshold from 40 to 35 per cent, which was again rejected by Parliament after a vote. On the reduction of the 35 per cent threshold to 30, the MMD MPs who opposed the reduction polled 71 against the opposition's 50 votes. The MMD also defeated an attempt to reduce the low band of 30 per cent to 25 per cent with 75 votes against the opposition's 50.

Pemba MP David Matongo moved the amendments to the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill at committee stage much to the surprise of the front bench after the Bill passed through second reading last week. Finance Minister Ng'andu Magande said he strongly opposed Mr Matongo's amendments to the new tax system introduced by Government. The minister said that changing of the proposed tax system would be retrogressive to the country's development. He challenged Mr Matongo to withdraw amendment proposals to the new tax system expected to come into effect on April 1 this year.

Mr Matongo said the revenue collection in the country had never failed but that authorities with the task of ensuring that the funds were used properly had not performed to the people's expectations. "It is a matter of principle that we defend the majority of the suffering Zambians and oppose the increase in the tax levels. I stand by my principle not to allow the new tax system and I've refused to withdraw the proposed amendments," he said. Kafue MP Robert Sichinga (UPND) said that Parliament should not be used as a rubber stamp but should operate independently and make decisions that would benefit the people. Mr Sichinga urged the Government to reduce the size of Cabinet and abolish the office of the district commissioner (DC) to save national resources.

Bills that passed through the committee stage without amendments were Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill and Customs and Excise (Amendment) Bill. (The Times of Zambia, Ndola)


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