“We should not only use the brains we have, but all that we can borrow.”
– Woodrow Wilson
Year- end is the time when business owners will be winding down their operations and planning for the coming year. Many are currently busy holding strategic planning sessions, reviewing business performance for the year and coming up with strategies and tactics for moving ahead and growing their businesses in an increasingly competitive world. It has been a really tough environment in the past few years as we saw many big and small businesses folding due to a number of factors, mostly to do with cash shortages, a shrinking market, high costs of doing business and, worst of all, a hostile regulatory regime by the authorities.
One of the most hostile of the authorities towards business has been the state’s revenue collector, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority. Of course all businesses must comply with tax laws and contribute their part towards funding of the fiscus in order for government operations to proceed smoothly. However, the bulk of small businesses do not contribute a cent in taxes. The reason they are reluctant to register with Zimra is their fear of the tough requirements for compliance and the harsh penalties if one fails to fully comply, submit returns late or make mistakes.
In 2015, some strategists at Zimra came up with a new system to ease tax compliance. They introduced an electronic filing system, which enabled one to register with Zimra and submit returns online from the comfort of their offices or homes. This system was supposed to make tax compliance easy. However, the opposite is happening and it is most noticeable around December as people struggle to renew their tax clearances, which expire at the end of each year. A tax clearance certificate is one of the most critical documents to have, as most businesses will not pay invoices from suppliers without a current document. Everyone scrambles to get their tax clearance certificates for the New Year in late December so there is always congestion at Zimra offices.
Zimra published a notice in the press last week, Public Notice Number 39 of 2017, advising taxpayers that tax clearances for 2018 will start being issued online from 23 December 2017. This day is a Saturday and it is followed by Christmas Holidays on Monday and Tuesday. So the whole country has December 27- 30, 4 working days to apply for tax clearance certificates online. Clearly, this is thoughtless as most businesses operators process their tax clearances from their offices. There will obviously be a massive congestion.
The strategists at Zimra clearly did not learn anything from 2016. The moment they opened tax clearance applications online, their computer system crashed and was inaccessible for weeks. Attempts to log into the Zimra website would only bring out the message: “Sorry, we are currently having technical issues.” I went to Zimra many times to check on progress and one of the staffers advised me to log in between midnight and 5am in the morning!
Eventually, in mid January, Zimra started issuing manual tax clearance certificates. Technomag magazine issued the following report on 15 January 2016:
Clients who had failed to get online tax clearances are queuing for the manual system amid reports that the new Zimra system has completely gone down, forcing the tax officers to issue out manual tax clearances for a month.
You can imagine the havoc as thousands of clients invaded Zimra offices. This caused not only chaos but also inconveniences and losses to businesses that had 10% deducted from their invoices for lack of a current tax clearance certificate.
This year Zimra has done it again. Since the beginning of December, the Zimra e-filing system has been collapsing most of the time. Submitting returns or even checking the status of one’s account is a nightmare. A staff member at Zimra told me the system suffered from congestion and the problem is being attended to.
Sorry we are currently having some technical issues
However there does not seem to be any progress as at the time of writing this article, the same message is appearing: “Sorry we are currently having technical issues”, or at other times “Server Error in / Application: Runtime Error.”
Worse still, those trying to do new registrations are reporting that they are getting no results online and are having to submit manual applications at Zimra offices. After getting a registration number they are told to go and print the tax clearance certificate online, which is impossible as the system is not working.
Now most small business owners are having sleepless nights worrying about how they will get tax clearance certificates in time for January 2018. Surely, the new Board and Management at Zimra can think of a solution that works.
It is time for positive change.
Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. His new book Business Survival and Growth Amidst Turbulence is now available. You may contact him by email, firstname.lastname@example.org
In one of his interviews, best-selling author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series Robert Kiyosaki talks about how he fared in setting up and running his businesses. In all, he says he started nearly forty business. Some lasted a few weeks while others survived more than a decade. His first really successful business was the Velcro wallet venture, which made millions in sales. However, the situation started changing and Robert did not take notice. The wallets started losing popularity and sales began to slow down. By the time Robert noticed the looming collapse, the business had lost a lot of money and was bankrupt.
Robert took several months crying about the collapse of his business. Eventually he approached his mentor, whom he calls rich dad.
Rich dad advised him to apologize to investors who had put money into his business. He also told him to look at the important lessons learned from running that business. Robert recalled one important thing; his financial team failed to disclose to him the true state of the company’s financial performance. Maybe Robert did not ask for detailed information in the first place and the accountants did not want to disappoint him with bad news. The business was in the red without the owner knowing.
If Robert had scrutinized the financial performance reports earlier, he could have steered the business into a different direction. Or he could have realized that the venture was beyond rescue and abandoned it before incurring heavy losses.
The belief that failure is not an option is a fallacy which has steered many organizations, and even countries, into serious financial disasters. Failure maybe the best option. There is no use flogging a dying horse, it only worsens the outcome.
If you hear corporate risk executives discuss strategy, they talk of worst case scenarios and catastrophe reports. They ask about what is the worst that could happen if they take a particular course. They always hope for the best but prepare for the worst and they are not afraid to change a wrong course.
In these turbulent times, you need to regularly review your strategy, study your financial situation, project the future and change course where necessary. Doing the same thing when the environment and situations are changing will lead you nowhere but to disaster. Think about it and let me have your feedback.
Have a spectacular day.
PS: If you have not yet read my latest book, Business Survival and Growth amidst Turbulence, get your copy now at our offices for only $15, also available as soft copy (PDF) for $7.99, or call / whatsapp me on +263 777 774 007 for more information.
Join us as we share TEN TIPS TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS AMIDST TURBULENCE AND INTENSE COMPETITION at the BusinessLink networking breakfast meeting on Thursday 27 April 2017. Your host will be me Phillip Chichoni at the usual venue from 0900 – 1015. The price is $12 and $6 for paid up BusinessLink Club subscribers. Call me on 0777 774 007 or visit our office to book, the fist ten people will get a free copy of my new book, Business Survival and Growth Amidst Turbulence.
From the author of Business Planning Simplified and The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business in Zimbabwe, comes a brand new book: Business Survival and Growth Amidst Turbulence 2017 and Beyond.
Launching on Friday 16 December 2016 at the BusinessLink Breakfast meeting, this book is available at half price of $10 if you pre-order now. Normal price will be $20. This offer is limited to the first 50 people to buy. You can pay in cash at our office, via Ecocash on 0777 774 007 (Phillip Chichoni) or by bank transfer (contact us for banking details). Remember, special offer limited to first 50 people.
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BusinessLink Magazine MAY 2016
It was the annual lumberjack competition and the final was between an older, experienced lumberjack and a younger, stronger lumberjack. The rule of the competition was quite simply who could fell the most trees in a day was the winner.
The younger lumberjack was full of enthusiasm and went off into the wood and set to work straight away. He worked all through the day and all through the night. As he worked, he could hear the older lumberjack working in another part of the forest and he felt more and more confident with every tree he felled that he would win.
At regular intervals throughout the day, the noise of trees being felled coming from the other part of the forest would stop. The younger lumberjack took heart from this, knowing that this meant the older lumberjack was taking a rest, whereas he could use his superior youth and strength and stamina to keep going.
At the end of the competition, the younger lumberjack felt confident he had won. He looked in front of him at the piles of felled trees that were the result of his superhuman effort.
At the medal ceremony, he stood on the podium confident and expecting to be awarded the prize of champion lumberjack. Next to him stood the older lumberjack who looked surprisingly less exhausted than he felt.
When the results were read out, he was devastated to hear that the older lumberjack had chopped down significantly more trees than he had. He turned to the older lumber jack and said: “How can this be? I heard you take a rest every hour and I worked continuously through the night. What’s more, I am stronger and fitter than you old man”.
The older lumberjack turned to him and said: “Every hour, I took a break to rest and sharpen my saw.”
Many times the pressures of a running business become overwhelming. We work hard and run around trying to solve one problem after another. After all the hard work, we may find that we are not progressing. There is no growth, no improvement. It is like we are running around in circles and not getting anywhere. Working harder will not get us any farther. What is needed is to take a break and sharpen our saws. Learn new skills, read about what others are doing in other businesses, in other towns and in other countries. If we don’t learn new things we will be left behind, just like when you are running on treadmill, working hard but getting nowhere.
Make it your plan now to sharpen your axe regularly and get off the rat-race.
NB: Please note our month-end special offer:
Company registration, Zimra BP Number, tax clearance ITF263, PLUS, Starter Pack consisting of:
*100 x Business cards
*1 x Quotation book
*2 x Invoice books
*2 x Receipt books
*1 x Company profile
ONLY $250 Visit us at Admiral Business Systems (Pvt) Ltd, 308, Merchant House, 2nd Street /
Robson Manyika Avenue, Harare. Phone 04-700812, 0777 774 007