The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The court was called upon to determine the authority of the Uganda Revenue Authority to transfer tax liability and collect money from bankers holding money for alleged offenders under the VAT Act.
The court decided 2 of 5 agreed points of law. Firstly, the court considered whether the defendant's decision to impose and transfer a tax liability of Uganda Shillings 5,553,634,271/= from SureTelecom Uganda Limited to the 1st plaintiff was legal. The court held that the purported transfer of liability from SureTelecom Uganda Limited was unlawful because it infringed the right of the first Plaintiff to be charged and tried before a court of law or an independent tribunal for the offence which the penal tax was imposed. The court agreed with the defendant that it was acceptable for a director of a company to be held liable for the offences of a company in absence of proof that they lacked knowledge of the offence or had tried to stop the commission thereof. However, the court noted that the Commissioner had compounded the offence prior to court proceedings without having an admission from the first plaintiff and thus violated his fundamental right to a fair hearing as envisaged by section 28 of the Constitution. Accordingly, the court found in favour of the first plaintiff. Secondly, the court considered whether the defendant’s act of issuing agency notices to and subsequently collecting USD 800,000 from the 2nd Plaintiff’s bankers in respect of the 1st Plaintiff’s tax liability is lawful or legal. Based on the determination of the previous issue, the court found in favour of both plaintiffs in this issue.
The respondent sued the appellant for general damages and restoration of the value of certain of its properties, arising from their sale at a public auction, prompted by a warrant of distress issued under the Income Tax Act. The High Court found that the respondent bore no tax liability to the appellant at the time the warrant was issued, and consequently that the vehicles were unlawfully distrained and sold, before making an award of damages, interest and costs of suit in the respondent’s favour.
On appeal, the tax authority successfully challenged the High Court decision on the grounds of jurisdiction. It contended that the relevant tax legislation (primarily the Income Tax Act, 1973) had established fora to preside over tax disputes at the first instance. As the respondent had failed to exhaust these internal statutory remedies before launching court proceedings, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter. The court had ousted the jurisdiction of the specialised fora designed for that very purpose.
Reiterating that jurisdiction may be raised by the parties or suo moto (by the court itself) at any stage of proceedings – even on appeal – the appellate court quashed and set aside the High Court’s decision and upheld the appeal.