The Value Added Tax (VAT) on Imported Services (VIS) in Zimbabwe ensures that services procured from non-resident persons and persons operating their business outside Zimbabwe and consumed by residents are taxed similarly to those supplied by local providers. This article explores the background, relevant laws, detailed VAT regulations, and the impact of VIS on businesses and the economy.

VIS applies to services imported into Zimbabwe and consumed or utilised by residents. The standard VAT rate is 15%. The tax obligation arises upon the earliest of three events: issuance of an invoice, payment to the non-resident provider, or completion of the service. Taxpayers must remit the tax by the 25th of the month following the supply, and they may reclaim VIS if the services contribute directly to taxable supplies. VAT on imported services may be paid in local currency.

The value of imported services is either the consideration paid or the open market value, whichever is greater. The ZIMRA typically applies 15% on the consideration. Barter or donation is valued at the open market value, and a supply for no consideration has nil value unless between connected persons. Meanwhile, imported services similar those ordinarily zero-rated or exempted by local suppliers are exempted from VAT for instance actuary, insurance, medical services, financial guarantee, or suretyship.

Reclaiming VIS involves complex documentation and compliance requirements. Taxpayers can offset the tax paid against their VAT liabilities if the imported services are used directly in the production of taxable supplies.

The requirement to remit VAT by the 25th of the following month creates a strict timeline for compliance. Businesses must ensure they have the necessary funds and documentation to meet this deadline, failing which they may face penalties and interest charges. The option to pay VIS in local currency provides flexibility, particularly for businesses that may not have easy access to foreign currency.

In conclusion, implementing VIS has significant implications for businesses, particularly those that frequently engage with international service providers. While the ability to reclaim VIS offers some relief, the requirement to prepay the tax can strain cash flows, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lacking financial resources. Complex conditions for claiming VAT refunds pose additional challenges, requiring detailed records and stringent documentation to reclaim VIS successfully. This administrative burden can be particularly onerous for smaller enterprises, lacking the capacity to manage these processes effectively.