12 June 2018

Sierra Leone: NRA Starts Tax Clinic With Support From OSIWA

The National Revenue Authority (NRA) has launched a new tax education activity--'Tax Clinic'. This activity is sponsored by the Open Society Initiate for West Africa (OSIWA) and is geared towards engaging taxpayers in the central business district on returns filing, records keeping and other compliance issues. It was launched on Saturday, 9th June, 2018 at Siaka Stevens Street where NRA staff visited shops and distributed tax education brochures and leaflets while engaging passers-by. The NRA has to date adopted a tax education strategy that builds compliance through partnership to foster a healthy balance between stakeholder engagement and tax enforcement. The Authority is increasingly improving its tax education to enhance voluntary compliance.

In May this year, the NRA announced that it has received funds from OSIWA to implement an effective nationwide taxpayer education and engagement campaign for a period of one year. The aim is to further improve relationships with key stakeholders and cultivate an overall culture of compliance. Specifically, the campaign aims at, delivering tax education programmes that will improve understanding of the importance of domestic revenue collection to increase voluntary compliance, educating taxpayers about reforms undertaken by the Authority to improve taxpayer services and boost voluntary compliance.

It was also aimed at keeping taxpayers informed about tax regulations including changes in tax laws, educating the public about the mandate, operations, and modernisation drive of the Authority; and raising awareness of the Authority's tax system to encourage a tax-compliant behaviour.

According to the OSIWA Country Officer, the main purpose of the project is to reduce dependence on resource extraction to mobilise domestic revenue for socio-economic development. The collapse of the iron ore industry in 2014 has demonstrated the risks of overreliance on extractive revenue collection. From 2012-2014, large revenues from this sector particularly iron ore, spurred economic growth. This was disrupted with the collapsed of commodity prices in the international market. The impact of mineral resources on economic development is unstable not only because they are susceptible to shocks as has been the case in 2014, but most crucially because resource exhaustion is inevitable as production is bound to peak and cease at some point in time. As has been noted by OSIWA, the country needs to develop an effective domestic mobilization strategy to reduce the impact of resource-dependence and reliance on donor support to fund budgetary expenditure if it should achieve sustainable development.

The OSIWA/NRA tax education project which targets professional tax consultants & accountants, architects, engineers & contractors, lawyers, medical doctors, importers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and non-government organisations (NGOs) is thus laudable. The Tax Clinic targets small and medium enterprises (SMEs) along Siaka Stevens Street. With this project, the NRA will be able to focus on improving compliance of 'Hard-to-tax Sector' which could have significant implications for expanding its tax base, reduce the tax gap, and enhance overall voluntary compliance and ultimately revenue collection.

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