The Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), Dr. Jibao has said in Freetown that his institution targets revenue collection of a little over Le 5 Trillion for 2019. The ultimate target, he said, is to raise annual revenue collection to Le 9 Trillion, about 20% of GDP.
He said tax administration needs political support which he said he is enjoying under the current dispensation. He thanked President Bio for the support for the confidence reposed in him and as he operates with free hands.
Since taking over, revenue mobilization has been remarkable, jumping from around Le 800 billion in the first quarter of 2018 to over Le 1.Trillion in the last four quarters. He said revenue has been gradually moving up in a positive trajectory.
Asked how this success has been achieved so far, Dr. Jibao singled out staff motivation, policy and reassessment. Before, there were managers that were not managing, he stated. Adding that reassessment and finding out those who were not paying their taxes as a source of huge revenue loss add up to his successes. For example, he said NRA has found out that it was saddled with 65% GST claims credit. Action taken was to immediately suspend all GST credit and do a thorough audit of the system leading to massive improvement in revenue collection from that source.
He said field audits done through setting up of a specialized unit within the NRA led to the discovery of five year backlog in the Kenema and Bo offices which have not been audited for the past five years. The authority recouped a paltry sum of about Le 45 billion in unclaimed taxes.
Jibao said his enforcement mechanisms, monitoring of staff against complaints and data matching through collaborating with line institutions to gain information paid off as they discovered a lot of unpaid taxes in the process.
One major issue NRA is grappling with, according to Dr. Jibao, is tax education; a priority that he said has been placed under his supervision. NRA, he said will embark on marketing itself.
In terms of revenue collection at Customs and at the quay, Dr. Jibao said there had been a culture of massive undervaluation of imports and exports. The system, he said, is being reviewed including getting information from importing countries of the true value of goods. Undervaluing, he said, had to do with the integrity of staff which he said was at low ebb allowing importers and exporters not to pay correct duties.
They are working on that inducing the fear factor of prosecution by the ACC, citing that several erring NRA staffs are under probe currently by the ACC.
Another area NRA has scrubbed he said is that of discretionary duty waivers which Dr. Jibao said was widely abused to the tune of over Le215 billion in just last year.
The discrepancy, he said, led to an unfair trading platform as those who enjoyed exemptions sold their goods at the same price as duty payers. Its removal, he added, has impacted significantly on revenue collection.
Principally, Dr Jibao stated that due to the administrative strategies employed by NRA since his arrival, revenue has been growing upwards steadily, with no increase in taxes, as falsely believed in some quarters. What has happened, he said has been broadening of the tax base to include those that were non compliant, those who were not paying their correct taxes and those that were not paying at all, including those who own rented properties.
He stated that together with the Trade ministry, measures will be put in place to ensure that businesses do not fleece consumers by falsely claiming that NRA has increased taxes.
He also commented on the role of clearing and forwarding agents in distorting the trade climate by them charging their clients exorbitantly and issuing them undervalued receipts. This too, he said, will be stopped with the appropriate strategy.
Non-tax revenue from the fisheries sector, he disclosed, is going to be maximized in partnership with the Ministry of Finance through increased surveillance and reporting.
“We are on the right track,” Dr. Jibao said, adding that his target of raising revenue collection to Le9 trillion in the coming years is achievable with the restructuring of the NRA machinery to become more professional; efficient; transparent and target-focused on whom to pay and who not to pay, which, according to him, has been a serious problem.
“NRA now has a strong team including the board, management and staff,” Dr Jibao assured.