How Helpful or Harmful is RBZ Export Tax Incentive Scheme?
Mapirimira Primary School along the Great Dyke in Zvishavane
31 May 2017
Globally, the mining sector has gained notoriety for not paying its fair share of taxes to mineral rich and mineral dependant countries. African countries being the most affected. Consequently, curbing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs), illegal and immoral but legal activities, is high on the agenda for development finance. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will forever remain a mirage to be pursued and never attained without stopping the bleeding of Africa’s finance for development. Curbing IFFs can be quite complex and challenging for many institutional weak African governments. It is worrisome though that several mineral rich governments resort to toxic sweetheart fiscal incentives to promote investments in the sector. The result is a diminished flow of mineral tax revenue. Ultimately, this affects much needed funding for social protection programmes that reduce poverty and inequality. This blog seeks to stimulate the fiscal justice or tax justice public discourse in Zimbabwe. Mainly focusing on the 5% export incentive scheme administered by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). Already, Gilbert Makore, a close colleague and mentor, started the ball rolling on 7 March 2017, through his blog: Does the RBZ Export Incentives for Mining Need a Rethink?.
Has RBZ scrapped mining royalties indirectly through export incentives?
Mineral exports contribute about half of Zimbabwe’s total export earnings. Automatically, this makes the mining sector the largest beneficiary of RBZ’s 5% export scheme. According to Zimstat data, mining contributed $362 million to overall exporting earnings amounting to $724 million in the first quarter. As such, $18,1 million accrued to mining houses and artisanal and small scale miners through 5% export incentive derived from $362 million export earnings. At the same time, mineral royalties amounted to $16,4 million according to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA)’s first quarter revenue performance report as at 31 March 2017. Given that export incentives to the mining sector outstrips royalties by $1.7 million, it can be argued that mining royalties have effectively been scrapped.
Royalties, it must be noted, are the only income stream from mining that is easy to administer and less susceptible from tax evasion and tax avoidance unlike income tax. Because of lack of disaggregated mineral tax revenue data from ZIMRA’s revenue performance reports, it is not possible to weigh the export incentive benefit to mining houses against overall tax contribution. Suffice to say, corporate income tax contribution from all economic activities including mining, agriculture, tourism and manufacturing among others is always dwarfed by Value Added Tax (VAT) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE). This points to the regressive nature of our tax regime. Corporates are not paying their fair share of taxes. The poor unfairly shoulder the tax burden. Regrettably, government is on the drive to raise more indirect taxes as manifested by the aborted Statutory Instrument 20 of 2017 that sought to expand VAT to some selected basic commodities like meat.
Some interesting points to consider
Mukasiri Sibanda (@mukasiri) is an economic governance officer. He is interested in mineral resource governance. He blogs at Mukasiri's Blog. Mukasiri works with the Zimbabwe Environmental law Association