Q&A – 6 February 2012

Entitlements upon divorce

I have been married ten years, am sick of my husband and want a divorce. I have been a stay home wife and have not financially contributed directly to the acquisition of various properties that my husband acquired during the pendency of marriage. He always used to tell me that I had brought good luck to him in that after we got married he made tonnes of money. My husband knows I want a divorce but has told me point blank that if I ever file for divorce, I will be on the streets and he will not maintain or pay me. He also keeps mentioning that all the assets belong to him or his family members. It is true that I have not brought any hard cash home but I have assisted in supervising all his businesses. Am I not entitled to anything? How can I proceed? In this harsh world I will not survive a day if my husband kicks me out without any payment?
AP, Mwanza

You have not mentioned the reasons you seek divorce. In Tanzania you cannot merely agree on getting divorced; the Law of Marriage Act provides for specific reasons like adultery, cruelty, desertation, that one must adduce to get divorced. The Court must also be satisfi ed that the marriage has broken down irreparably before making any orders for divorce.

In the event you proceed to fi le for divorce, there are lots of Court decisions including one famous case by the Court of Appeal of Tanzania which ruled that domestic chores count as contribution to acquisition of matrimonial properties. Since you have assisted your husband to take care of the home in his absence including supervising the said family businesses, you are entitled to an equal share of the matrimonial properties as much as he is entitled to the same. Generally speaking it does not matter whether the property is in his name or yours.

Your husband seems to think that he can get away by merely throwing you out. This is not the case and the law comes to your protection.

Your husband should read about some famous divorces where the husbands became poorer as in the cases of media magnate Rupert Murdoch, former basketball star Michael Jordan, former golf champion Tiger Woods, movie director Steven Spielberg, Actor Harrison Ford and singer Lionel Richie, where divorce settlements were in the billions of shillings.

We must warn you that at any time if you have used matrimonial properties in a manner to have wasted them, for example in buying unnecessary jewelry or used funds fl amboyantly, these amounts will be deducted from sums payable to you. Our advice here is only meant as a guide and not to further spoil or strain your relationship. You might want to consult a marriage counselor for further advice.

In Court for refusal to pay garbage costs

My office is located in the Dar es Salaam city centre where for many years I have been paying Tsh 7,500 per month as garbage collection costs. Suddenly a few months ago the garbage collectors demanded Tsh 150,000. I refused to pay the increased amount and they refused to collect the old amount. I have now been sent a Court summons to appear in Court. What should I do?
TN, Dar

Although garbage collection does not sound like a big deal, nonpayment for garbage collection is a criminal offence. The rates for garbage collection are stipulated in the Dar es Salaam City Council (Collection and Disposal of Refuse) By-laws, 1994 in which schedule C is relevant in answering your question.

Under the said by laws, rates are indicated according to the number of employees you have. For example, business with 76 to 100 employees are required to pay Tsh 150,000; the Tsh 7,500 is for businesses with 6 to 10 employees. Unless the number of employees has increased, we believe you have a good defence.

On a different note and as a precautionary measure, it is adviseable to appear before the Court with two persons who can bail you out just in case bail is called for.

1/3 tax deposit before case heard

I am a mobile voucher seller in Morogoro. After long debates with Tanzania Revenue Authority in Morogoro, they proceeded and unfairly assessed me with a colossal amount of tax, claiming VAT for transactions that do not attract such tax. On the face of it, it is quite clear that there is no tax payable yet they have proceeded to issue this tax assessment. My Auditor says that we may be forced to deposit 1/3 of the assessed amount before we can appeal this matter. This does not make sense to me as the 1/3 amount itself is enough to take me to the grave.
IH, Morogoro

The Tax Revenue Appeals Act provides for this in that any person who disputes an assessment made upon him may, by notice in writing to the Commissioner General, object to the assessment. A notice of objection shall contain a statement in precise form, of grounds in respect of which the objection to an assessment is made, and shall be filed with the Commissioner General within thirty days from the date of service of the notice of the assessment. Where a notice of objection to an assessment is given, the person objecting shall, pending the final determination of the objection to an assessment by the Commissioner General in accordance with section 13, pay the amount of tax which is not in dispute or one third of the assessed tax, whichever amount is greater.

The Act further states that where the Commissioner General may, upon being satisfi ed that there exist good reasons warranting reduction or waiver of tax payable direct that a lesser amount be paid or waive the required tax deposit.

From the above, it is clear that you must object to the assessment within 30 days and deposit the 1/3 or the amount not in dispute whichever is greater. However the Act also gives the Commissioner discretion to grant a reduction of the 1/3 or waiver after being satisfi ed that there exist good reasons. Reasons of financial hardship may be entertained but they must be genuine. Your tax consultant can guide you further.