Finance Minister takes steps to digitalize excise tax

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Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura

The Minister of Finance, in a press release, has informed all manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of excisable goods, as well as the general public, that it is about to introduce mandatory Digital Excise Tax Stamps for tobacco products, wines, spirituous beverages and beers with effect from 1st October 2023.

In furtherance of this, the Ministry of Finance sources informed this press that it had been a long time coming to stop illicit trade, under-declaration, and inefficiencies in monitoring these products.

Our release indicates that due to the loss the government incurs in revenue collection and unfair competition for legitimate, law-abiding manufacturers and importers, the Finance Ministry sees the introduction of this new process as the best way forward for better revenue collection in the excise goods area.

Reliable sources at the ministry informed this press that using a digital traceability solution to authenticate secure tax stamps will aid the government’s tax administration in mitigating these revenue losses and protect compliant companies’ products in the market.

According to our sources, the Digital Tax Stamps will take the form of either paper stamps or digital codes that are affixed or directly printed onto the excisable products or the packaging of such products.

“The stamps contain visible and covert security features, which prevent counterfeiting and enable the stamps to be authenticated and traced to their origins,” a senior Finance officer revealed.

The senior Finance Officer maintained that the introduction of Digital Excise Tax Stamps would further enable consumers, retailers, and distributors to verify the authenticity of stamps affixed on excisable products, adding that all persons handling excisable goods for which marking is mandatory, must verify the presence & authenticity of the secured marking before receiving, storing, and offering the products for sale.

This press learnt that for locally manufactured goods, affixation shall be done in the production facility immediately after packaging the product, whilst for imported goods, affixation shall be done in a place registered by the Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), within seven days upon clearance from Customs or at the production facility within the exporting country; subject to such conditions as the Commissioner General may specify.

However, the release states that all registered taxpayers shall have certain obligations in paying Excise Duty, as long as they are involved in the manufacturing and or importing prescribed excisable goods.

The release further informed all Excise Duty taxpayers to apply through the NRA to access and use the PTS platform and facilitate the installation and maintenance of the PTS system equipment on any qualified, fully automated production lines in their production facilities.

The press release from the Ministry of Finance stated that the period 1st October 2023 to 31st December 2023 should be a transitional period during which every manufacturer, importer, distributor, agent, or trader of these gazetted products is required to dispose of any stock not bearing a Digital Tax Stamp.

However, the Ministry notes that where a person cannot dispose of stock not bearing a Digital Tax Stamp by 31st December 2023, such stock should be returned to the manufacturer or importer for stamping. At the end of the transition period, all excisable products sold on the market must carry a Digital Tax Stamp.”

Digital Excise Tax stamp introduction is part of the Government revenue and tax policies outlined by the Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, in 2023 Supplementary Budget Statement in the Well of Parliament.

He noted that to achieve the projected increase in domestic revenues, the Government is implementing the tax policy measures contained in the Finance Act, 2023, as part of the Medium-term Revenue Strategy (MTRS).

“The excise stamps will assist in tracking excisable goods along the supply chain, providing accurate statistics on the production and importation for tax purposes and deterring counterfeiting and smuggling of these goods,” said the Finance Minister, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura.

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