20 September 2017

Uganda: URA Moves to Push Govt Agencies Account to Public

The case of not letting taxpayers have a direct dialogue with government agencies and ministries on how institutions manage and spend public funds is partly to blame for the low domestic tax revenues, according to the officials from the Uganda Revenue Authority.

URA has organized its 12th edition of the Taxpayers' Appreciation Week which is scheduled to take place from September 27 to 29 at Kololo ceremonial grounds in Kampala.

The free-entry event to all, will bring together top government officials to explain to the general public how they spend public resources and plans to push the country to the middle-income status among other topical issues in the country.

"There is hunger and thirst for information among Ugandans," Vincent Seruma, the URA assistant commissioner for public and corporate affairs, told journalists during a press conference.

Recently, economists and officials from the National Development Authority expressed worry that failure by government agencies and respective ministries to absorb funds allocated, and channel them to the planned projects could see more Ugandans remain in poverty.

As such, URA says, there is need to build public dialogue with taxpayers, an idea the tax body believes will help maximize public involvement in the decision-making process, and also give agencies and ministries an opportunity to get feedback on several government programmes.

FREE SERVICES

At the event, some government ministries and agencies have agreed to offer Ugandans a range of free services which include, among others, legal aid services, birth and death certificate registration, yellow fever vaccination, cancer and sickle cell screening, verification of land titles and motor vehicle inquiry services.

There are many sectors earmarked for the event including; Education, Health, Trade, Water, Security, Transport, Financial and Revenue Administration.

These government institutions will exhibit their services, projects and initiatives that they handle in their respective ministries and sectors. The private sector, the SMEs and implementing partners will also exhibit at no cost upon registering with URA.

Every year, URA recognizes outstanding taxpayers through its taxpayer appreciation day. The event has over the years focused on small segment of taxpayers.

However, in a bid to shift the domestic focus to domestic revenue mobilization and increase visibility of the impact of revenue spent on delivering public service, URA has reviewed the structure of the taxpayers' appreciation day.

"The event has now been reset to recognize the contribution of small and medium enterprises, increase community involvement and also link public accountability to tax compliance," URA says.

President Museveni is expected as the chief guest at the event. The major goal of the taxpayer appreciation week is to enhance public accountability as a driver of tax compliance.

EDUCATION OUTREACH INITIATIVE

In Africa, a cross-cutting reason for non-compliance to paying tax is as much of the ignorance as avoidance.

Last month, URA hosted a two-day workshop at Serena hotel in Kigo where officials from the African Tax Administration

Forum (ATAF), an organization that seeks to improve tax administration in African countries, offered it some strategies.

Part of ATAF recommendation to URA was to educate taxpayers and raise awareness through schemes such as tax clinics, seminars, workshops, talk shows and propose tax administration services to its citizens.

With high compliance levels, internally mobilized domestic taxes will improve, according to ATAF. Currently, URA faces an uphill task of meeting its Shs 15 trillion set target for financial year 2017/2018.

The target is higher than Shs 13.2 trillion for the previous year where the revenue body only managed to record a 13 per cent growth in revenue but with almost half a trillion registred as shortfall.

Uganda

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