Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) has had a P140 million training levy debt written off by Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) in 2021.
An exchange of official letters between DTCB, Human Resource Development Council of Botswana (HRDC), and BURS demonstrates how the two companies prevailed over the taxman to ensure a P140, 612, 214 debt was waived. Both DTCB and HRDC cite false reporting of turnover for the request to cancel the debt.
A meeting was held between the three organisations in May 2021 at which sitting it was agreed and concluded that the vocational training levy debt be written off in order to bring the DTCB account into compliance.
A letter from HRDC’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Meshack Tafa attempts to provide justification for the the decision to completely wipe off the debt from the BURS books.
“DTCB has since the inception of the training levy indicated that the revenue sharing model as specified in the Sales Agreement being; Debswana Diamond Company 90%, DTCB 4% and DBGSS (De Beers Global Sightholder Sales) 6% of the sales and their reporting structure is a hindrance with regards to compliance with Vocational Training Levy,” reads the letter, addressed to BURS Commissioner General.
Tafa says in the letter that the result was such that DTCB reported 94 percent as revenue to BURS despite the fact that their only share is four percent and the taxman would in turn, charge the training levy on the entire reported turnover in accordance with the Vocational Training Levy Order. “This has in turn resulted in P140, 612, 214 outstanding training levy for DTCB which would not have been levied on DTCB had the correct turnover been reported to BURS.”
DTCB reportedly then requested that they “re-submit” the past value added tax (VAT) returns so that they could be “correctly” charged for the levy.
In a letter titled ‘DTCB TRAINING LEVY ISSUE’ the diamond company’s Managing Director Serumola Sedireng acknowledges an earlier meeting (March 19, 2021) at which DTCB updated the parties on its decision to reconsider interpretation of its revenue accounting in line with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 15, and that it now accounts for its revenue on a net basis of the four percent margin the company earns.
“This has resulted in the company having to correct this error retrospectively from 2008 to 2019 in accordance with the requirements of the International Accounting Standards (IAS8). The results of this is that in the 2020 Annual Financial Statement (AFS) balances for the years 2018 and 2019 have been re-stated to reflect the changes in line with the requirements of IFRS.”
The Managing Director says DTCB then stated that they would like to request to resubmit the past VAT returns so the company could now be “correctly” charged for the levy.
In a response titled ‘UNDERPAYMENT OF INCOME TAX RELATED TO TRAINING LEVY PROVISION’ BURS Commissioner General (through a letter signed by Bontle Moalosi) confirms that DTCB accounted for the levy on the 94 percent on the income statement but only made payment to BURS based on the four percent and the 90 percent was carried as provision in the books of the company. “The provision for the training levy was therefore treated as a deductible expense in arriving at the taxable income. This arrangement resulted in income tax underpayment of P28, 347,186.” The letter goes on to grant “authority” to revise the tax returns.
DTCB refused to comment on the matter suffice to say “we are unable to give comments on any matters relating to regulatory entities such as Botswana Unified Revenue Services. DTC Botswana is implementing a new company strategy which is aimed at unlocking diamond value for the benefit of our nation. Through this strategy, we aim to achieve our Ambition of Pioneering a New Diamond World of Sorting and Valuing while ensuring that we build a sustainable business.”
BURS also did not offer an explanation. “We are constrained by the law to discuss with third parties issues relating to our clients.”