Rights of the Taxpayer in the framework of a Tax Audit in Cameroon
In my previous post, I wrote about the taxpayers’ rights which have to be protected and respected. I know this will sound strange to many business operators who have been marginalized by some unscrupulous tax officers especially during tax audit in Cameroon. Most of the times, such things happen because of ignorance of the tax law by the taxpayers.
This is the reason I have been writing to clarify entrepreneurs and business operators who may not have the means to hire tax advisors or get access to information on how to go about it.
Since you already know that taxpayers’ rights have to be protected, I will discuss below about the rights and guarantees of a taxpayer in the framework of a tax audit in Cameroon. Taxpayers rights have to be respected and protected in accordance with the laws of Cameroon.
=> Right to information
The taxpayer has the right to know when an audit is supposed to take place as well as be provided the information necessary to exercise his/her rights. The Cameroon tax code makes provision that the taxpayer is supposed to be informed at least 15 (fifteen) days before the date fixed for the first operation. This information could be done by direct delivery with an acknowledgement of receipt by the taxpayer or representative or could be sent through a registered mail with the acknowledgement of the mail delivery register.
=> The right to request for audit postponement
The taxpayer has the right to request for a postponement of a tax audit in Cameroon in unavoidable circumstances. This is done by sending a written application 15 days after reception of the notice. Section M.14 of the GTC if Cameroon also states that ‘such postponement must be accepted expressly by the Administration’. They also have the right to a response to such a request. However, if there is no response from the tax authority within 15 (fifteen) days, it considered as approval.
On the other hand, in case the date of intervention is changed by the tax authority, they are obliged to inform the taxpayer of the change by sending a corrective notice.
=> Right request any consultant
The taxpayer has the right to be assisted by any person of his/her choice or a tax professional during a tax audit process. Section M.13 (new) of the General Tax Code (GTC) of Cameroon states that the audit notice from the tax authorities have to make mention of the fact that the taxpayer could hire any consultant of his/her choice to assist in the control or audit process. Note that if it is not indicated in the audit notice, it is null and void.
NB: There is also one thing you need to know here – Section M.13 states clearly that ‘any consultant’ of your choice. It did not state that it must be an authorized or certified tax advisor. The person you use could be anybody so long as the person could defend you.
=> The adversary inspection procedure
In the case where there is an omission, inaccuracy or shortcoming is found in the elements used as basis for calculating the taxes or duties, the taxpayer has the right to present arguments during a tax audit in Cameroon in defense of the arguments charged by the tax administration.
It should be noted that the external tax audit in Cameroon could take place in the office of the taxpayer, the office of the taxpayer’s advisor on condition that the work of the tax controller is not compromised.
=> Documents to be exploited
The tax practice in Cameroon is declarative hence, the tax documents submitted by the taxpayer is presumed truthful unless failed to fulfill his/her obligation to cooperate. Failure could be in the form of not filing a tax return, keeping the necessary books or is being suspected of tax evasion.
The documents for control has to be used only at the place of control and is strictly prohibited for the tax controller to take along. An exception to this may occur on condition that a receipt is issued before documents are taken away. The taxpayers’ rights to privacy and confidentiality of their tax information must be duly respected.
The tax authorities are obliged to to inform the taxpayer of all the documents needed and the taxpayer has to return an acknowledgement slip or sign a mail delivery register. If the postal address provided by the taxpayer is binding, then it is considered the said mail will reach the taxpayer within 15 (fifteen) working days after the date of dispatch.
=> Tax audit limitations
In the case of an account audit, spot checks may not go above three months beginning on the date of the first intervention. An exception can come only under special circumstances that must be duly explained to the taxpayer. In case there is an extension, the taxpayer has the right to be notified in writing of the reason for extension and for how long it’s going to be extended.
However, the time limit could be extended to 6 months in case where the tax audit in Cameroon is on transfer prices or information transfer procedure that are provided under tax agreements.
=> Tax inspection is nonrenewable
The taxpayer has the right not be subjected to double audits. Section M.36 of the General tax Code of Cameroon states that where the audit under a given period of assessment with regards to a specific tax or group of taxes is completed, the tax authority may not undertake further audit on for the same taxes or duties within the same period of assessment. However, the tax administration reserves the right of resumption regarding the said taxes and duties on condition that it doesn’t allow for further assessments within the enterprise.
In addition to this, if the tax administration lodges a complaint for fraudulent acts by the taxpayer, a further check maybe conducted.
It should be noted that the above are the rights and guarantees of taxpayer within the framework of a tax audit. I will be making another post in the coming weeks on the rights and guarantees of the taxpayer in other relationship with the tax authority.
Taxpayers are entitled to fair treatment from tax authorities. Take note that those who evade taxes end up paying more taxes in the form of bribes and penalties when caught. Bribery is a crime and the perpetrators are liable to legal actions.
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