Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The High Court in Kampala has dismissed an application seeking to block the selective roll-out of electronic receipts and invoices by Uganda Revenue Authority.
The program also known as the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solutions is a government initiative through which businesses are obliged to transmit transaction details to URA in real-time and issued with electronic receipts and invoices. The system helps the tax body to confirm the accuracy of self-assessments made by taxpayers.
The program had been scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2020, after the government gazetted the Tax Procedures Code (E-Invoicing and E-Receipting) Regulations.
But before its roll-out, URA had written to five supermarkets within Kampala to participate in a pilot phase for the implementation of the program. The supermarkets which include Capital Shoppers, Kenjoy Enterprises, Jazz Supermarkets and Mega Standard Supermarket were requested to nominate two members of their staff for the training on the use of the electronic receipting system.
But the supermarkets challenged the decision and said that URA did not have a legal basis for selecting their enterprises for the pilot. They pointed to discrimination and lack of a clear implementation strategy by the tax body as well as the availability of other efficient alternatives from which URA could make a choice.
They asked the court to issue a temporary order blocking the implementation of the exercise until the determination of the main case challenging the program’s legality. However, URA opposed the application on grounds that the application only sought to deter URA from performing its statutory duties and enforcing tax laws.
The Deputy head of Civil Division of High Court Justice Musa Ssekaana agreed with URA and dismissed the application in a judgement delivered on Friday. Ssekaana noted that courts should be reluctant to restrain the public body from doing what the law allows it to do or to execute its core mandate or function. He added that in such circumstances, the grant of an injunction may perpetrate breach of the law which such bodies are mandated to uphold or apply.
“Suspending the operation of a law that has not been declared unconstitutional is a very serious matter. The grant of this application would amount to just that and this would be without hearing evidence’, said Ssekaana. He advised that the supermarkets should have pleaded exceptional circumstances for the court to grant the orders sought.