Local vehicle importers have banded to protest the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) for “irrationally” seizing motor vehicles and closing down their business without explanation.
Earlier this month the BURS made various site visits where they seized and closed down some import car dealerships based in Mogoditshane, for improper declaration of goods and alleged involvement in illegal financial transactions.
During these visits the tax authority seized over four thousand vehicles, fake invoices and dirty cash in an attempt to recover billions of Pula in unpaid duties. The BURS also had misgivings with Bill of Lading which had been submitted for compliance with the declaration process.
This past week, The Sunday Standard learnt thirty-four car import dealers who expressed disappointment with BURS, claimed despite compliance they still could not get their vehicles returned to them.
Some highlighted the vehicle import dealerships are their source of income and livelihood.
Among those aggrieved is director of Episkopos Car Importers Oreeditse Kgotla who says they cooperated with BURS from the beginning however changed BURS and decided to address their clients instead of them. He said “We have engaged BURS at the start of all these when we were called for interviews. However a week later it was changed since we did not agree with the valuation they used, how can one value something without actually seeing it. So BURS instead called and interviewed the clients as the actual owners of the cars and people who paid for the cars, so most clients are not familiar with the actual process entailed in buying the car, for instance when asked as to how much they paid they will say the total amount which includes buying, courier, Clearance, Registration and administration fee paid to the agents.”
“This will result in client charged tax in the whole amount instead of just the amount for the car. For instance, a RunX Teardrop is bought for 3000 USD which is around P33 000 without Clearance, Registration and other costs. This is the amount that BURS should calculate tax from, but instead the client will be asked how much they paid for the car after being threatened that if they lie they will lose the car and be fined 1 million, so the client will just reveal that they paid P40 000 which is the total amount Including all cost and then their Clearance will be calculated from that amount and will be higher than it should be,” Kgotla said.
Furthermore the car import dealers said the BURS refuses to reveal the valuation process they are using in order to determine the value of the cars and charge Clearance tax.Car import dealers believe BURS was afforded a lot of media coverage on this matter while they were left out and most of what has been said does not depict the reality of the matter on this issue.
Kgotla continued: “There is no how we can close or suspend operations while we have cars that are yet to be delivered and while we have cars that are in the hands of BURS. So, we are forced to face furious clients daily and endure the harassment by the police as well as being taken to courts daily not forgetting being called names and facing all forms of abuse on the social media and other broad way Media. We have resorted to using the willing media house to voice out our side of the story.”
On the impact of BURS to their businesses, the Car import dealers shared that cars ordered from Asia and Europe were qouted for using the old practice that is being abolished and therefore it means some businesses are running into serious deficits and debts on paying extra huge amounts on Clearances in order to keep up with the regualations.
Some cars that were already in Bonded Warehouses awaiting Clearance were taken by BURS without consultation and clients are taking some businesses to courts over failure to deliver their cars as per agreement. While some businesses are harassed daily by the police who are not well informed on this matter.
Some clients only paid for cars to be bought and agreed to pay for clearance once the cars arrived and now they are unable to pay Clearance due to this change and their cars are at the verge of being auctioned and the word say they will be refunded as to the value shown on the receipts which BURS is refusing to accept, this we feel is unfair on our clients and it will result in further lawsuits.