Justice Musa Ssekaana, Head of the Civil Division of the High Court, offered guidance to members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal (TAT) during their week-long training at the Judicial Training Institute in Kampala. He emphasized the importance of focusing on facts in legal disputes rather than getting bogged down in technicalities that might discourage taxpayers.
The Tax Appeals Tribunal, established by an Act of Parliament in 1997 and operational since May 1999, serves as a specialized court for handling tax-related disputes with the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). Justice Ssekaana encouraged TAT members to adopt a flexible, simple, and transparent approach when dealing with tax disputes.
Justice Ssekaana reminded the tribunal that it should distinguish itself from conventional courts by demonstrating expertise in tax disputes and avoiding unnecessary legal jargon and technicalities. He stressed that the TAT’s function includes reducing tax evasion and enhancing fairness and transparency compared to traditional courts.
Additionally, he urged the tribunal to expedite dispute resolution, minimize delays, and create a platform for thorough interrogation of involved parties to uncover hidden information. If the TAT suspects that a URA official is withholding information, they should demand disclosure and summon the official if necessary.
Justice Ssekaana recommended that senior URA officials, rather than sending their junior representatives, engage directly with the TAT to facilitate a more efficient resolution process and reduce case backlog.
Lady Justice Damalie Lwanga, Head of the Judiciary Training Institute, acknowledged the training’s importance for TAT members already involved in their duties. She urged members to avoid case backlog and deliver timely decisions, emphasizing the need for impartiality and defendable rulings benefiting both taxpayers and the URA.
Lwanga pointed out that the Tax Appeals Tribunal is increasingly visible and active in Uganda’s justice system, offering an appeals mechanism for parties dissatisfied with URA decisions, thereby saving lengthy court processes. The tribunal also alleviates the burden on conventional courts by resolving disputes that can be handled administratively.
She reminded the TAT members of the tribunal’s legislative purpose: resolving disputes by hearing appeals from dissatisfied members of the public regarding URA decisions.