By Peter Ssebulime
Kampala: The High Court of Uganda has finally relieved the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) after ruling that he legally exercised discretionary powers when he issued a General Notice requiring all VAT-registered taxpayers to start issuing e-invoices or e-receipts or employ electronic devices connected to the URA centralized invoicing or receipting systems.
This decision comes after Capital shoppers Ltd, Quality, Kenjoy, Jazz and Mega Standard Supermarkets challenged the said General notice for being illegal and ambiguous.
The 5 Supermarkets filed an application for Judicial review seeking for several orders including;
1.An Order of Certification issues quashing the decision of the respondent of selecting the applicants as ‘Pilot candidates for the pilot exercise for the implementation of Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (EFRIS).
2.An order of prohibition issues prohibiting the respondent, its employees, agents and all persons acting under the authority from enforcing the decision of exploiting the applicants’ business as ‘pilot candidates for the pilot exercise for the implementation of the EFRIS until a proper legal framework is put in place.
3.The permanent injunction issued against the respondent restraining it, its agents and all persons working under it from enforcing their decision of exploiting the Applicants’ business as ‘Pilot Candidates for the pilot exercise for the implementation of the EFRIS until a proper legal framework is put in place.
4.A declaration that the planned roll-out of the EFRIS on a few and not all of the business enterprises in Uganda amounts to selective tax administration and enforcement thus offending the fairness and neutrality canons of a good tax system.
However, the honorable Judge, Musa Ssekaana, ruled in favor of URA saying that; “The the procedure adopted by the applicant’s counsel for Court to quash the Tax Procedures Code (E-Invoicing and E-Receipting) Regulations, 2020 for being enacted without stakeholder participation is very irregular and this court would not grant such leave to make an amendment during submissions.”
Ssekaana added that the application also intended to challenge General Notice No. 595 of 2020 gazetting all VAT-registered taxpayers to issue e- receipts and e-invoices as being inconsistent with section 73A of the Tax Procedures Code (Amendment) Act, 2018. “There is a valid cause of action which is not directly related to exhaustion of available remedies since there is no such decision that has been made by the Commissioner-General,” he added.
He further ruled that the orders sought by the applicants are overtaken by events and therefore moot since no good would be achieved if the orders are granted.
“The Tax Procedures Code (E-Invoicing and E-Receipting) Regulations 2020 were enacted by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and passed by the Parliament of Uganda which is vested with powers to make laws. The propriety of the said Regulations cannot be brought into question without the author,” he added.