By UK Bureau
ZIMBABWE’S embassy in the United Kingdom is among London’s top three tax-dodging diplomatic missions, Britain’s foreign office has revealed.
According to the UK media, the foreign office recently named and shamed 23 foreign embassies and diplomatic organisations which owe more than £1.5 million in unpaid tax.
Top of the list of shame is the embassy of Sudan, with Iran and Zimbabwe in second and third place respectively.
According to the MailOnline, diplomatic missions are exempt from national, regional or municipal taxes.
They are however, encouraged to pay a portion of their bill, equating to just 6 per cent of what a normal firm would fork out.
Zimbabwe’s embassy, which occupies a Grade 11-listed building in central London, reportedly owes £101,694 (about US$129,000) in business rates.
Top of the list is Sudan’s mission which owes £137,122, followed by the Iranian embassy at £123,570.
Government officials in Harare had not responded to NewZimbabwe.com’s questions at the late last night.
Battling economic problems that have lasted nearly two decades, Zimbabwe has long struggled to finance its foreign 46 diplomatic missions due to foreign currency shortages.
Some of the missions have been hit with eviction notices over unpaid rentals with salary arrears for staff, in many cases averaging 12 months.
At the beginning of last year, foreign and international trade minister Sibusiso Moyo confirmed government plans to reduce the number of embassies “because of financial constraints”.
In his 2019 budget statement, finance minister Mthuli Ncube revealed the administration ran a $15 million deficit through expenditure directed at foreign missions.
“Currently, Zimbabwe has diplomatic presence at 46 Embassies and Consulates, staffed by around 581 home based and locally recruited staff. The above diplomatic presence is currently imposing annual budgetary levels of around $65 million, which is above available 2018 budget capacity of $50 million,” he said.
“Government has resolved to reduce the number of foreign missions, thereby optimising the utility value realised from the remaining missions as well as avoiding accumulation of arrears and embarrassing evictions of our diplomats.”
The administration has however not said how many, or which, of the missions will be shut down.