6 July 2018

Liberia: Business Community Petitions Legislators

The petitioners paraded on the ground of the Legislature with placards of various petitions

-For tax policy reforms

The Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) and four other business organizations yesterday presented a petition to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petition, Claims and Human Rights, chaired by Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis, for tax policy reforms.

Liberia Business Association (LIBA), National Customs Brokers Association of Liberia (NCBAL), Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL), Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and IREDD, are business organizations that signed the petition statement.

The organizations said the Liberia Tax Amendments Act of 2016 in effect and application, has constrained and continued to impede the growth and development of Liberian-owned businesses already facing limited financial opportunities to grow and/or develop.

Ivan Tumbey, NCBAL President, who read the group's petition, said the continued imposition of unbearable taxes on the "struggling businesses" without tax benefits or breathing space has made them mere fence-sitters without contributing to their country's economy.

Tumbey said some activities the businesses executed analyzed existing tax law, identified tax governance issues that impede taxpayers' ability, especially Liberian-owned businesses, to fairly comply with domestic resource mobilization efforts; organized engagement forums, gathered experts' inputs on tax governance issues and the way forward that promotes voluntary compliance.

Members of the business organizations paraded with their placards while marching to the Legislature.

The businesses also identified nine compelling tax governance issues that directly affect the economy, including increase in Goods and Service Tax (GST) by 3 percent--that is, from 7 percent to 10 percent.

According to Tumbey, the huge bottleneck associated with trade facilitation at port of entries across the country, particularly at the Free Port of Monrovia; the uncoordinated processes of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), BIVAC and the Ministry of Commerce, as well as the APM Terminals; undefined time interval to free processed containers from the Free Port of Monrovia to consignees, are all against the home-established businesses.

Other factors Tumbey named include the undue delay of the LRA system to process tax payment across Liberia in real time; the LRA's continuous use of administrative regulations and other unconventional methods to assess customs; duties on imported goods instead of the CIF values; the wrongful application of 4% tax on gross sales quarterly instead of annual turnover required by section 200 (c)(1) of the Liberia Revenue Code; and other unconventional methods to assess customs' duties on imported goods instead of the CIF value.

Harlod M. Aidoo, IREDD Executive Director, said it is unfortunate that Liberians cannot afford a cup of rice because of "abject poverty."

"Our people are suffering; we believe that a government that was elected by the masses with a popular mandate should see reason to address the plight of the poor. If the government wants to achieve its pro-poor agenda, then it has to address the increase in the US dollar against the Liberian dollar," Aidoo said.

He said government cannot be giving foreign-owned businesses 10 to 15 years tax break, while Liberian-owned smaller businesses that are struggling to stand still pay higher taxes.

Representative Rogers Domah, who received a copy of the petition on behalf of the Committee, said as direct representatives of the people, whatsoever affects the citizens' welfare concerns each of the lawmakers.

He assured them of the Committee members' commitment to prevail on Rep. Dennis to present the plight of the Liberian-owned businesses to House's plenary to take the appropriate decision in the shortest possible time.

Rep. Domah (R) receives copy of the petition on behalf of Rep. Dennis

Authors

Hannah N. Geterminah

Liberia

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