INTRODUCTION TO CAMEROON LAW ON TAX OFFENCES
In Cameroon, there are limitations applicable to tax offences in Cameroon and various litigation, so it is necessary to understand the statute of the limitation period in Cameroon before going to court. The statute of limitation is a law that defines the period during which a lawsuit can be brought in court. And when the period specified in any statute of limitation period has passed, it means that the lawsuit will no longer be filed because it will become prohibited by law. The statute of the limitation period in Cameroon (where applicable) invalidates a person’s right to seek legal redress. However there exist exception that could cause an extension of statute of limitation period.
It is Trite law that A Statute on Limitation for tax offences actions in Cameroon is designed to stop or avoid situations where a plaintiff can commence action any time, he feels like doing so, even when human memory would have normally faded and therefore failed. Putting it in another language, by the Statutes of Limitation period for tax offences, a plaintiff has not the freedom of the air to sleep or slumber and wake up at his own time to commence an action against a defendant.
The different Statutes of Limitation which are essentially founded on the principles of equity and fair play will not avail such a sleeping or slumbering plaintiff. He will be stopped from commencing the action and that is a just and fair situation. A plaintiff who suddenly wakes up from a very deep sleep only to remember that the defendant had wronged him, can, I think, be rightly ‘greeted’ by the defendant with the appropriate limitation statute, waving same to him as a basis for redress…….
The importance of having a limitation is to ensure that all claims are made diligently and in a timely manner while the evidence is still available, and the memory of the witness is still fresh.
HOW TO DETERMINE STATUTE OF LIMITATION PERIOD IN CAMEROON
The Cameroon law on tax offences is the penal code law and the Supreme Court of Cameroon has set out the yardstick for determining whether an action is statute-barred thus:
- The date when the cause of action accrued
- The date of commencement of the suit as indicated in the writ / Criminal summons
- Period of time prescribed to bring an action to be ascertained from the statute in question
PERIOD OF PRESCRIPTION FOR TAX FAULT
The Cameroon law on tax offences stipulates the time frame within which tax fault actions can be initiated. Prescription shall be the baring of prosecution following the failure to commence an action within the prescribed limitation period;
- In the case of a felony – The period of prescription shall be 10 years
- In the case of a misdemeanor – The period of prescription shall be 3 years
- In the case of a simple offence – The period of prescription shall be 1 year
Non-payment of taxes is a misdemeanour under section 183(1) of the Cameroon law on Tax offences (Penal code) and the statute of the limitation period is 3 years as provided for under section 65 (4) of the Criminal procedure code.
Below are other limitation periods for subject matters applicable in Cameroon.
- Action founded on simple contract: It must be commenced within 6 (six) years of its occurrence
- Action for damages for negligence: It must be commenced within 3 (three) years of its occurrence
- Action for damages for slander: It must be commenced within 3 (three) years of its occurrence.
- Actions for recovery of land (Individual): It must be commenced within 12 (twelve) years.
EXTENSION OF STATUTE OF LIMITATION PERIOD
Legal principles are not always inflexible. Sometimes they admit to certain exceptions. The Law of Limitation of action recognizes some exception, thus where there has been a continuance of the damage, a fresh cause of action arises from time to time as often as damage is caused…”
The most common exceptional action that can result in an extension of the statute of limitation periods are:
- In cases of fraud
- Where there appears to be a mistake or error
- Where an infant was involved as the time the cause of action arose there will be an extension of statute of limitation period
- Where the party involved is in a state of unsound mind
- Where the legal action is regulated by customary law.
Knowing the statute of limitation of an action before its commencement in court will save an individual from stress, time and having his matter thrown out of court before its commencement.
The basis for implementing the Limitation of Actions law is to ensure any person whose right has been breached and require a legal redress do so timeously, and not when human memory would have ordinarily faded in respect of such matter.
Furthermore, some limitation laws are put in place to limit the number of lawsuits, especially as it affects public officials and agencies.
Article by MAFANY victor NGANDO
Kinsmen Advocates Law Firm
“The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advise should be sought about your specific circumstance”.