Months after the Tax Court for Montserrado County ordered the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to release a container that contains cigarettes and mosquito coil, belonging to the Global Kanse Business, a Liberian owned entity, the authority is yet to honor the court’s mandate.
Judge Mozart Chesson took the decision when the judge denied a request by the LRA, asking the court to dismiss a complaint filed by the Global Kanse Business against the revenue authority, which decision the LRA resisted before announcing an appeal to the Supreme Court.
It was the complaint that necessitated Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie’s involvement, who by then was serving as Chamber Justice of the Supreme Court.
Justice Wolokollie happens to be the maternal sibling of LRA Commissioner General, Thomas Doe Nah.
Initially, Judge Chesson had argued the Supreme Court does not conduct a trial and thus does not receive evidence, therefore, the Supreme Court cannot receive from the LRA any complaint, likewise, the LRA is barred from presenting to the Supreme Court any evidence that the LRA did not present during his handling of the case.
Justice Wolokollie got herself involved with the matter, when the LRA asked her to issue a writ of prohibition against both Judge Mozart Chesson of the Tax Court and the Global Kanse Business, for the court’s illegal and unconstitutional issuance of the release order, which decision she is yet to take pending her replacement.
She has so far been replaced with Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh. However, the status of the container remains a mystery.
The case went to the Tax Court, after the Global Kanse Business (GKB) claimed that it had imported into the country, from Vietnam, Gold Seal Menthol (10 sticks of cigarettes in a pack) and Gold seal Red (10 cigarettes in a pack) for sale in Liberia.
The company also claimed that, prior to the importation of the product, they requested for inspection which was conducted by the authorized entity, BIVAC.
In keeping with the Reform Excise Tax Law of 2018, GKB added, the BIVAC assessed their product and calculated their customs duty and other fees to US$35,161.84.
The company said that, upon loading in Monrovia on May 22, 2020, the LRA reassessed the customs duty at US$404,578.83, meaning that Global Kanse Business’ new tax is now US$404,578.83 instead of the BIVC’s assessment valuation of US$35,161.84.
Against the LRA’s new custom duty, the Global Kanse Business immediately protested the reassessed value done by LRA, claiming that the customs authority failed and refused to offer it (Global Kanse Business) a hearing, purportedly in response to fears of contracting the coronavirus infection, or to deliver a written determination to which the taxpayer might appeal.
More than 40 days thereafter, on July 9, 2020, the Global Kanse Business opted to file appeal against the actions of the LRA for denial of due process and also filed a bond in the full value of US$404,578.83 with the Tax Court in order to obtain the release of the perishable goods and to secure the LRA in consonance to the Revenue Code section 59. The bond was secured on behalf of Global Kanse Business by the Sky Insurance Corporation.
In counter argument, the LRA resisted the appeal and filed an exception to the bond of US$404,578.83.
It was after hearing the arguments that Judge Chesson approved the bond and ordered the LRA to release the container. It was this ruling the LRA rejected and subsequently appealed to Justice Wolokollie.
In their resistance to the indemnity bond submitted by the Global Kanse Business, the LRA argued that it does not satisfy requirements set forth by the Supreme Court.
While the matter was before the Tax Court, the LRA reassessed the tax and reduced it to US$205,478.80, which again the Global Kanse Business rejected.
Global Kanse Business further argued that it attempted, through its lawyer, to deliver a hard copy protest letter to the office of the Commissioner General of the LRA, but the staff of the said office provided the email of the commissioner general on ground that the office of the commissioner general is not accepting hard copy communications, only emails.
Besides, they had written the commissioner general two communications and the said commissioner general had failed, refused and neglected to accord them due process.
“That due to the illegal act of the LRA, the Liberia National Port Authority has denied the company the opportunity to get its product out of the port premises, thereby causing unnecessary storage fees and penalty on [the company], which should be borne by the LRA,” the Global Kanse Business argued.
GKB also claimed that they visited the premise of the NPA in regard to its protest, but the Commissioner General categorically told them to seek redress at the court because the reassessed amount is the final decision of the LRA. That is how GKB filed the complaint against the LRA at the Tax Court.