In a note over the weekend, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion announced significant changes to the Value Added Tax (VAT) regulations. One major change was the scrapping of the VAT deferral for importers. This decision has raised numerous questions and concerns among businesses and individuals alike. In this article, I will explain the new regulations, their implications, and how they may affect ordinary Zimbabweans and businesses.

What is VAT Deferral?

VAT deferral allows importers to postpone paying VAT on imported goods until they sell these goods. This means they don’t need to pay the tax upfront when the goods arrive at the border. Instead, they pay it later with the funds from selling the goods. This system helps importers manage their cash flow better.

What has changed?

As per the new regulations outlined in the Value Added Tax (General) (Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (No. 67), VAT deferral has been scrapped. Importers must now pay VAT upfront at the point of importation.

Why was VAT deferral scrapped?

The government has not provided a specific reason for scrapping VAT deferral. However, possible reasons include:
Revenue Generation: Upfront VAT payment increases immediate government revenue, which can be used for public services and infrastructure.
Tax Compliance: It reduces the risk of tax evasion, ensuring that the government collects the correct amount of VAT.
Economic Policy: Aligning with broader economic reforms to stabilise the economy and increase fiscal discipline

How does this affect importers?

Importers now need to pay VAT when their goods arrive in Zimbabwe. This change can impact them in several ways:
Increased Cash Flow Pressure: Importers need more cash on hand to pay VAT upfront. This can be challenging for small businesses with limited financial resources.
Example: A small business importing electronics worth $10,000 would previously defer the 15% VAT ($ 1 500) until after selling the goods. Now, they must pay this amount upfront, requiring an additional $1 500 at the time of import.
Price Adjustments: Importers may increase prices to cover the additional cost of paying VAT upfront, leading to higher prices for consumers.

Impact on Ordinary Zimbabweans

The removal of VAT deferral can have several implications for ordinary Zimbabweans:

  1. Higher Prices: If importers pass on the additional cost to consumers, prices of imported goods could rise. This affects everyday items such as electronics, clothing, and food products that are often imported. Example: The price of imported smartphones might increase, making them less affordable for many Zimbabweans.
  2. Reduced Availability of Goods: Smaller importers struggling with the new cash flow demands might reduce their import volumes, leading to fewer goods in the market.
  3. Economic Pressure: Higher prices and reduced availability of goods can contribute to inflation, putting further economic pressure on households already dealing with high living costs.

Possible Benefits

While the immediate effects might seem negative, there could be potential long-term benefits:

  1. Increased Government Revenue: Higher tax collection can fund public services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development, benefiting society as a whole. Example: Improved road infrastructure could facilitate better transport and logistics for businesses and individuals.
  2. Enhanced Economic Stability: Strengthening fiscal discipline and reducing tax evasion can lead to a more stable and predictable economic environment, attracting more investment in the long run.


1. Will all importers be affected by this change?

Yes, all importers will need to comply with the new regulations and pay VAT upfront.

2. Are there any exemptions?

The regulations still include exemptions for certain goods and services, such as domestic electricity, water, and agricultural products. These exemptions aim to protect essential goods and services from VAT.

3. How can businesses cope with the new regulations?

Businesses might need to explore financing options to manage their cash flow better, renegotiate payment terms with suppliers, or adjust their pricing strategies to remain competitive.

4. What should consumers do in response to potential price increases?

Consumers can look for local alternatives to imported goods, budget more carefully, and be aware of price changes to make informed purchasing decisions.

The scrapping of VAT deferral for importers is a significant change in Zimbabwe’s tax policy. It poses challenges, especially in terms of cash flow management for businesses and potential price increases for consumers. It seeks to boost government revenue and ensure better tax compliance. Understanding these changes and preparing for their impact can help both businesses and individuals navigate the new economic landscape more effectively.