Hon. Justice Musa Ssekaana addressing the Tax Appeals TribunalHon. Justice Musa Ssekaana addressing the Tax Appeals Tribunal

KAMPALA - High Court judge Musa Ssekaana has implored members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal to
reduce case backlog and to ensure consistency in their decisions to keep the economy sound.
Ssekaana, who is also the head of the civil division of the High Court in Kampala made the appeal while lecturing members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal on the role and jurisdiction of Tax Appeals
Tribunal at the Judicial Training Institute in Nakawa on Monday (October 16, 2023).

The members of the tribunal who attended the training included registrar of the tribunal, among others. "The reason why the Tax Appeals Tribunal was established is to expeditiously settle tax disputes between a taxpayer and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). This is because for us in ordinary courts we work under a first come first serve basis, which is not appropriate for tax disputes as they have an impact on the economy. Please, ensure that matters are handled expeditiously and disregard technicalities because you are an administrative tribunal," Ssekaana said.

Justice Musa Ssekaana with memebers of the Tax Appeals Tribunal in 2023
Ssekaana also warned members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal against making contradicting decisions, saying they cause unnecessary confusion. " We have a challenge of contradicting decisions at the
Court of Appeal, if you also do the same here, then you are finished because your area is very unique," Ssekaana noted.

On the instances where the law is not clear, Ssekaana advised the members of the tribunal to resolve such matters in favour of the taxpayers and then recommend amendment of the law in case a lacuna (legal gap) has been detected. Citing a case of taxi operators under Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA), which he handled before being admitted to the bench, Ssekaana said, “You rather tell URA to amend the law than twisting your decision to suit its interests.”

While Ssekaana advised the members of the tribunal to desist from dismissing the cases on technicities, he clarified that this doesn't mean they should ignore the timeframe for filing an appeal
before the tribunal as stipulated under the law. "We should separate technicities from what the law provides. For example, if there is a document with relevant information but it is not dated, do not reject it but do not accept a case that is filed out of the period provided for under the law. Therefore, don't copy what we do in ordinary courts, be flexible otherwise if you copy what we do, people will shun the tribunal," noted Ssekaana.

On the jurisdiction of the courts in tax matters, Ssekaana explained that an appeal from the tribunal lies to the Court of Appeal while the High Court handles judicial review that concerns the procedural matters of the tribunal.

Justice Damalie Lwanga, the executive director of the Judicial Training Institute implored the tribunal members to always put in mind the purpose for which the tribunal was created. "Your tribunal is a creation of the legislature intended to resolve disputes through hearing appeals from members of the public who are dissatisfied with the decisions of the URA. I want to advise you that it is important to create a good image of the tribunal to the members of the public so that you build the public's confidence in the tribunal," Lwanga said.

Lwanga also appealed to the members of the tribunal to serve with integrity, humility, transparency, diligence, utmost sobriety and make decisions that can be defended in law. Please, avoid instances of bias and treat both the tax collector and tax payer as equal litigants," Lwanga said.

Dr Asa Mugenyi, the chairperson of the Tax Appeals Tribunal said some good progress has been made since the establishment of the tribunal in 1997 and that the training is going to enhance their

The weeklong training will end on Thursday with registrar Mary Kisakye taking the participants through the conduct, ethics and integrity of a public officer.

Article Courtney of Newvision