Opportunities in big data for ZIMRA as it tackles fraud with data capture system

Nigel Gambanga Avatar
ZIMRA, taxes, Zim Government

In the first quarter of 2016, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) will be introducing a tax management system which captures real-time transactional data from all registered traders.

According to a report in the Herald, this information was shared by Gershem Pasi, ZIMRA’s Commissioner General in an address to students at the National Defence College.

The new system runs on devices that will be deployed at traders’ premises and transaction points. It is set to help ZIMRA identify firms that under declare their transactions for purposes of tax evasion and is being used for both formal and informal businesses.

It has measures to guard against users who try to switch off the devices to avoid recording transactions and ZIMRA has already deployed the system among some business operators. According to Mr Pasi some taxi drivers that were authorised during the recently held ICASA Conference in Harare using the system.

There are some obvious and significant near sight benefits for ZIMRA with this system. Revenue collection is always affected by leakages through inaccurate declarations and any system that offers an option to reduce this risk is likely to have some benefits on ZIMRA’s financial targets.

It’s hard to see how ZIMRA will corner the booming informal economy to sign up for formal tax declarations, especially when they are supported by a digital tool that makes the occasional evasive plays a bit of challenge.

However, there are still a lot of benefits that ZIMRA can enjoy from the formally registered concerns as well as the aspiring businesses targeting a formalised route to financial growth.

The real opportunity, however, lies in data collection. ZIMRA has always had one of the clearest opportunities to harvest data on various economic trends in different commercial environments.

Every major point of reference that ZIMRA has a direct interest in offers a significant data set. ZIMRA is one of the few entities that can offer data on trade patterns as well as consumption versus production figures.

Using an electronic system improves the collection and collation process, arming ZIMRA with clearer data that can be used in a number of decision-making scenarios.

Mr Gershem Pasi highlighted part of this opportunity when he touched on the information gathered being used for economic policy formulation as well as highlighting losses that are being incurred from tax evasion.  That’s the macroeconomic end of the big data spin here.

If the system has a fairly sizeable uptake, it can harvest data on consumer trends and patterns, the varying levels of commercial activity and areas where investment can offer decent returns.

It’s the sort of data that would benefit every sort of decision maker – primarily the various levels of business and, also in terms of research and business model development.

If any of these benefits are to be realised, ZIMRA should also be looking at ways to package that data and avoid a situation where valuable information is gathered and just sat on. Who knows, it could even become another source of revenue for the taxman.


  1. tinm@n

    It’s a slippery slope.

  2. yes

    yes offers developers real opporturnities in building systems that can analyse the transactions and break them down to metrics that help in information for gvt and to a small extent investors

  3. purple

    What happened to the Fiscalisation that was started during Tendai Biti’s tenure as chancellor of the exchequer? Taking from that experience I will only believe it when i see it.

  4. Zimbandrew

    Perhaps if ZIMRA concentrated on the fundamentals, actually paying its obligations on VAT and Income Tax refunds, doing assessments, and stopped harassing its ‘clients’ with petty audits by wet behind the ears inspectors there would be no need for systems deployed across broader formal business to catch that minority of tax evaders, most of whom are sitting in the informal sector! This is a five pound hammer to crack a nut. Its typical of the regime… oppress all good honest citizens across the board to seek out a couple of dodgers and violators. Typically the imposition of large penalties for no returns is purely a revenue generating function, because if you make a return that document and its appendages are most often lost in the myriad of paper piles which flood junior officers desk and remain un-attended and never assessed. ZIMRA should be concentrating its efforts of effective e-filing and are to be complimented for recent initiatives in that direction. Tax payers are tired of visiting their local tax office, standing in queues, and being served by people who are quite indifferent to our contribution to the fiscus… Enough is enough…

    1. Siege585

      Well spoken my Good Sir!

  5. T

    Well all tax authorities avt that way in all countries. But hey hanti this is the new economy they were talking about one where they cant collect taxes from.

  6. Itai Tione or Stop It

    Ya, they must start with a large dairy company or stop it!

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