Tax numbers: new battle between Chamber of Commerce and Tax Authority
Some traders and businessmen staged a sit-in protest in front of the Tax Authority in the Al-Safia area of Sana’a, demanding that tax numbers be released and that the sales tax law be cancelled.
The tax number is a card issued by the Tax Authority which permits traders to import, export or send or receive money or goods. The Tax Authority has taken the tax numbers after traders refused to pay the duty fees.
But when the protests were repressed by riot police on Monday night, protestors decided to escalate their actions and have gone on full strike.
Mohammed Zaid Al-Mohal, the director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sana’a, told the Yemen Times that the strike will continue until further notice.
“The strike came in response to the way the riot police attacked the peaceful traders’ sit-in, which left some of them wounded,” Al-Mohal said. He noted that their protests had a prior permit from the Interior Ministry.
“More than 4,000 containers have been suspended in the ports of Hodeida and Aden for two months now, and this has practically stopped the import process. Some containers consist of food products,” he pointed out.
On Monday, the Tax Authority said in a statement that it has suspended all of its activities because the employees cannot get into their offices due to the protesters’ encampment, which surrounds the authority.
However, Al-Mohal insisted that all of the allegations in the Tax Authority statement are baseless, emphasizing that the protesters did not prevent anyone from entering the government building.
In the past several of days, the area in front of the Tax Authority has witnessed continuous traders’ protests calling for releasing the tax numbers, revoking the sales tax law, and purging the authority of corrupt officials.
The sales tax law, which was issued in 2002, has not been enforced due to disputes between the government and traders.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry demanded the immediate, unconditional release of tax numbers which have been withheld by the authority for more than 45 days, the compensation of negatively-affected traders, and the sacking of corrupt officials, as well as the reorganization of the authority.
The statement further called for “paying back all money illegally taken from the private sector’s merchants at the ports and demanded that the Tax Authority stop demanding “the illegal sales tax law.”
After a day of suspended activities, the Tax Authority announced the recommencement of its operation on Tuesday after the protesters were forcibly removed by the riot police.
Mohammed Ghaleb, the Tax Authority chief, told the official Saba News Agency that his department works according to existing sales tax laws and regulations and that it did not impose any new law.
The tax numbers were withheld when the merchants and businessmen refused to pay the sales tax for three years, according to Ghaleb, who underlined the importance of withholding the tax numbers when traders violate the tax laws.