‘Tax increases imposed by Sudan Ministry of Finance illegal’ says lawyer

A travel bus in Sudan (File photo)

The recent increases in service fees are illegal because they are not based on a law and have not been approved by a legislative body, says lawyer El Moez Hazrat. Former rebel leader Yassir Arman also denounced the increases. Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim denied being responsible for raises of fees and taxes in the states.

“Fees may not be imposed unless approved by the Legislative Council or a joint comittee made up of members of the Sovereignty Council and the Council of Ministers,” he told Radio Dabanga on Thursday.

“This is stipulated in the Constitutional Charter of August 2019. Since the coup d’état [of October 2021] however, both the Sovereignty Council and the Council of Ministers do not have legal status anymore. Any administrative court can cancel the fees because they were not enacted by law,” he explained.

“The Ministry of Finance seems to prefer to rely on levies to fill to the treasury, which exacerbates the situation in light of the scarcity of the simplest services in the country.”

The lawyer further criticised “the purchase of a large number of four-wheel drive vehicles in a country that lacks the most basic necessities of life”.

Yassir Arman, former rebel leader, founder of the SPLM Democratic Revolutionary Movement, and leading member of the Forces Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC), also condemned the Ministry of Finance’s “imposition of exorbitant fees and taxes on everything in the country, from education to roads” in a Tweet on Wednesday.

This is a crime against millions of poor people, he stated. “According to which law are these taxes and fees imposed, in the absence of any legislative body or even a cabinet?! The authorities put their hand in the pockets of those who have no pockets and let the fat cats who smuggle gold and resources escape the taxes.”

On Monday morning, vehicle owners in Sudan were surprised to hear about a more than 150 per cent increase in licensing and inspection fees.

‘Not responsible’

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning denied his ministry’s responsibility for imposing any new fees and taxes, indicating that this is within the competence of the legislative authorities on a lower level.

Minister Jibril Ibrahim said on his Facebook page on Thursday that the role of the Finance Ministry is limited to approving taxes only. The Ministry of Finance has nothing to do with levies imposed in localities and states and their methods of collecting them, just as it has nothing to do with increased university fees, he stated.

Lawyer El Moez Hazrat responded to these statements by saying that they constitute “an evasion of responsibilities”, and pointed to the ministry’s official approval of the increases “which negatively affect the lives of the Sudanese people”.

In October last year, Ibrahim repudiated any further tax increases. Yet, a month earlier he called for expanding the ‘taxes umbrella’ [span of taxes] and said that he considered it “the most effective and successful way to increase tax revenues and combat tax evasion”. Sudan witnessed many protests against exorbitant tax increases last year.

Financial analyst Hafiz Ismail told Radio Dabanga on Tuesday that Minister Ibrahim should be dismissed. He “is taking advantage of the government vacuum and the absence of a legislative council to impose huge increases in service fees and taxes”.

The analyst warned for “the great impact of these decisions on the various segments of society” and said he wonders where the funds went that became available after the lifting of subsidies and increasing a number of taxes in 2022.

In November, following a new increase in fuel prices, Ismail said that they were “the result of chaotic economic policies and the failure of the state to find a real solution for the economic crisis.”