In a bid to educate people on taxation and accountability, Animated Area Development Committee (AADC), with grant from the Non-State Actors component of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, on Monday commenced a three-day taxation and accountability training for tax payers and council authorities in the Waterloo Rural District Council. The training, which was held at the Western Area Rural Council auditorium in Waterloo, brought together local authorities, including chiefs, councilors and civil society organizations from around the district.
AADC programme coordinator, Abdul Rahman Sesay, while giving the rationalefor the training, said taxes are the mainstay of economic development, noting that the issue of taxation is important, albeit many citizens are reluctant to pay their taxes.
"There is need for people to pay their taxes as this is the only way development can be achieved," urged Mr. Sesay. "Tax evasion is very common; a number of people, including businesses, continue to evade taxes. Central government, including local councils, is losing so much revenue as a result of tax evasion."
Deputy Chairperson of the Waterloo Rural District Council, Councilor Rosaline Kargbo, in her statement, highlighted the challenges the rural council faces in collecting taxes. She said revenue mobilization and the collection of taxes are key challenges, adding that the council is no exception when it comes to tax collection. Chief Administrator of the Waterloo Rural Council, Tamba Alieu, revealed that the council has two sources of revenue - grants from the central government and internally-sourced revenue. He said the training was timely as it would enable the council to mobilise revenue by employing successful strategies of encouraging people to pay their taxes. This training, he added, would set the perfect stage for people to be informed about paying their taxes, and to also understand how taxes are utilized.
"By paying taxes people will have the power to demand from duty-bearers and to also foster development," he said. He thanked AADC and team for bringing such a programme to the district, noting that development would only be actualized when citizens pay their taxes, and in turn monitor the use of it.
Lead facilitator, Nuru Deen of Ibis Sierra Leone, said local governments are the highest development entities at the local level. He said councils are mandated with key responsibilities, including mobilisation of local resources for the overall development and welfare of people in their localities, improving the provision of basic infrastructure and services, and cooperating with relevant agencies to ensure the security of their localities.
He said the link between taxation and development is important for the development of Sierra Leone, as the country should rely on generating its own revenue to function as a state and meet its development objectives.
Deen underscored that taxes fund education, health and infrastructure activities in the country. He described tax as a financial charge or levy imposed upon taxpayers by a state or functional equivalent of a state, such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are imposed by administrative divisions and they consist of direct or indirect taxes, and may be paid in money or in labour equivalent, he said. He told participants that stronger and cleaner tax systems would help development but that there is much work to be done. In Sierra Leone, the lack of tax structure is a major cause of weak unresponsive governance and it also leads to an overreliance on aid, he said.