May 7, 2018 By Hassan G. Koroma
The National Revenue Authority (NRA) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) last Friday, May 4, engaged taxpayers and launched a new tax education project in Freetown.
Speaking on behalf of Commissioner General of NRA, Madam Haja Kallah-Kamara, Director of Internal Audit Control Philip Koroma said the authority had in the past embarked on a taxpayer focused strategy that emphasises stakeholder engagement as the key cornerstone in the drive to promoting compliance.
He said that they have adopted a stance that complements tax enforcement with continued stakeholder engagement and building tax compliance through partnership, adding that such engagement avail NRA platforms to constantly exchange ideas and generate mutually satisfactory solutions to their common challenges.
Kamara said that taxpayers’ workshops and town hall meetings are used by the authority to engage and educate taxpayers about tax registration, taxpayer rights and responsibilities, enforcement actions, as well as customer service delivery measures.
He noted that despite efforts to reach out to their taxpayers they have been greatly constrained in implementing their taxpayer strategy due to delay in accessing their 3% commission from the Ministry of Finance.
He thanked the board and management of OSIWA for coming to their aid and funding their taxpayer education activities.
He recalled that sometime in 2016, OSIWA requested a proposal to fund tax education activities for a year, under its economic governance and advancement programme, and that the project amounted to $9,453,516, covering taxpayer workshop, jingles, radio and TV discussion programmes and tax clinics.
He revealed that in December 2017, the sum of $4,726,758 was transferred into NRA’s donor support account as first instalment payment, and that the launch of the project was suspended due to the just concluded elections in order to ensure maximum exposure.
He averred that despite the many challenges the face, the authority has continued to serve the nation through improve domestic revenue mobilisation, adding that there was no doubt that taxation is fundamental to economic growth and sustainable development.
“Being able to mobilise domestic revenue is crucial for government as it increases fiscal power and reduces foreign aid dependence. Our compliance in fulfilling that important responsibility has been impressive, mainly due to the successful implementation of tax reforms encompassing information technology that has helped simplify the processes and above all improved accountability and transparency in the tax system,” he said.
Kamara said the OSIWA tax education project was expected to further increase public knowledge on NRA’s mandate and operation modernisation drive, adding that their taxpayers will be better informed of changes in tax laws, automation and taxpayer service, particularly the electronic payment and returns filling systems to promote tax compliance.
Country Director of OSIWA, Joe Pemagbi, said they had embarked on a journey with NRA because they realised that across the sub-region there was over reliance on foreign aid and that it was on that note they decided to support national revenue institutions.
He said they had reasoned that it was proper partnering with national revenue institutions in the sub-region and that they started off in Liberia, with Sierra Leone being the second country they are partnering with to ensure good relationship with government through the National Revenue Authority and citizens.
He said citizens do blame government for not fulfilling their responsibilities, but noted that the former as well have a responsibility to help the government fulfil its mandate by paying taxes, so that the government could build more schools, hospitals, provide electricity, water and other basic human needs.
He called on the authority not to limit the workshop to Freetown, but to extend it to the provinces and engage small and medium enterprises for the benefit of all.
In her presentation, Commissioner for Non-Tax Department, Thelma Conteh, said the government depends on taxation to meet the needs of the people.