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BURS, banks speed up OBRS deadlines

MBONGENI MGUNI
The re-registration exercise invoives all companies in the country
The Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), banks and councils are amongst a group of entities that have reportedly imposed an unofficial deadline on the Online Business Registration System (OBRS), rejecting paper company documentation and demanding online certification.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), the custodian of the OBRS, has a deadline of June 2020 for all companies in the country to have re-registered on the online database. However, the BURS, banks, councils, land boards and others are reportedly already not accepting paper company certification and are demanding OBRS accreditation.

The BURS in particular reportedly issued an October 1 deadline indicating it would no longer deal with companies that have not migrated to the OBRS.

“Everything, from filing returns to obtaining a tax clearance certificate, the BURS will not cooperate unless you have re-registered online,” a company registration consultant told BusinessWeek. “The BURS actually treats your company as though it does not exist.  It is true that those companies that have not complied with the re-registration will be deemed not to exist, but that applies after the June 2020 deadline.

“The banks, councils and others have joined in also and say they don’t recognise the old documents.” BusinessWeek is informed that the BURS and banks’ rationale is based on their preference for the higher quality of documentation required for the OBRS and the online real-time access they are granted to the CIPA database.

The OBRS provides instant access to company’s directors, their beneficial owners, tax returns and is designed to not only help the ease of doing business, but also constrain the incidence of illicit financial flows. According to CIPA, following re-registration or registration of a new company or business name on the OBRS, a new certificate of incorporation as well as a company extract detailing

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directors, shareholders, beneficial owners and other general details of the company become available online.

Another consultant told BusinessWeek the BURS and banks were treating companies that have not migrated to the OBRS with ‘great suspicion’. “For most established companies, there is no problem re-registering online and in fact, the deadline is for those who have to decide whether they really want their companies to exist or not.

“Most active companies should not have a problem complying and CIPA has also committed to exempting outstanding returns for those that re-register. “Those that don’t want to re-register now, there could be other suspicious issues such as around beneficial ownership, that they want to sort out.

“The major reason, however, is the human tendency to wait for the last minute. “Because of the BURS deadline, some companies are only re-registering when there’s something they need like a tax clearance certificate.”

Although BURS officials were not available for comment yesterday, CIPA awareness and communications manager, Marietta Magashula said the authority had not received any reports of an unofficial ‘deadline’ set by the BURS, banks or others.

“We engaged with our stakeholders prior to the launch of the OBRS and we said the old documents would apply until the June 2020 deadline,” she said. “This is a one-year transition period provided for under the Act.

“It could be that for instance that when the companies need licences at the councils, they are asked for the latest, up to date and paid annual returns, which CIPA has offered to waive for those who re-register.”



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