Justice Ssekaana Warns Tax Appeals Tribunal on Case Backlog

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Kampala, Uganda | THE BLACK EXAMINER | High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana has urged members of the Tax Appeals Tribunal to address the backlog of cases and maintain consistency in their rulings to support a healthy economy.

Speaking during a lecture on the role and jurisdiction of the Tax Appeals Tribunal at the Judicial Training Institute in Nakawa on October 16, 2023, Judge Ssekaana, who also heads the civil division of the High Court in Kampala, emphasized the importance of expeditiously resolving tax disputes. He highlighted that unlike ordinary courts that follow a “first come, first served” approach, tax matters significantly impact the economy, necessitating a more efficient process.

Judge Ssekaana advised the members of the tribunal to focus on resolving cases promptly and avoid being overly technical, given their role as an administrative tribunal.

He also cautioned against making contradictory decisions, as this can lead to unnecessary confusion, stressing that their area of jurisdiction is unique.

In cases where the law is ambiguous, Judge Ssekaana recommended that the tribunal should rule in favor of the taxpayers and then propose amendments to the law when legal gaps are identified. He cited an example of a case involving taxi operators under the Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association, emphasizing the importance of making decisions that align with the law’s intent.

While encouraging the tribunal members to avoid dismissing cases on technicalities, Judge Ssekaana clarified that this does not mean they should disregard the legal timeframe for filing appeals, as specified by the law.

Judge Ssekaana stressed the importance of flexibility and making decisions that promote public confidence in the tribunal, rather than replicating the procedures of ordinary courts.

Regarding the jurisdiction of the courts in tax matters, he explained that appeals from the tribunal are directed to the Court of Appeal, while the High Court handles judicial reviews related to the tribunal’s procedural matters.

Justice Damalie Lwanga, the Executive Director of the Judicial Training Institute, urged tribunal members to uphold the institution’s purpose, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a positive image and the public’s trust in the tribunal. She encouraged them to serve with integrity, humility, transparency, diligence, and impartiality, treating tax collectors and taxpayers equally.

Dr. Asa Mugenyi, the Chairperson of the Tax Appeals Tribunal, acknowledged the progress made since the tribunal’s establishment in 1997 and emphasized that the training would enhance their performance.

The weeklong training program, concluding on Thursday, will cover the conduct, ethics, and integrity expected of public officers, with Registrar Mary Kisakye providing guidance to participants.

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