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Tax Must Not Be Taxing

Tax Must Not Be Taxing

Just the other day, I could not help but give a broad smile. You may wonder why. Well, let me explain.

Along Congo Cross on a wet and rainy day, an unkempt and haggard-looking young man was shouting at the top of his voice: ‘local tax for sale. Come and buy your tax to avoid embarrassment and molestation’. He kept shouting probably to coax or maybe cause passers by to patronize him.  From the look of his face, you could tell that he was getting impatient that nobody stopped by to buy their local tax. And he was not prepared to let the day go by without making a single sale. In his desperation to attract customers, he cared less if he was becoming more of a nuisance than a salesman.

All he cares about, I imagine, is that his message reaches his targeted audience which in turn will translate into more sales and by extension more profit.

Further down the road, another tax vendor and a taxpayer were at each other’s throat. The reason: the tax vendor was asking for an additional Le1,000.00 for the laminating paper provided as a protective cover. It was the intervention of other passers by that stopped them from exchanging blows.

That both the central and local governments are doubling their efforts to generate more revenue is a welcomed development. To be able to undertake sustainable development projects and meet the basic needs of its people, so much depends on how much revenue a country generates over the years. And it goes without saying that one owes it to their country to pay taxes and very regularly without hassle. Why wait to be chased or hounded to pay your tax. We all know very well that as a country, unless and until we increase our capacity to generate more revenue, we will forever remain a donor-driven or should I say a donor-led country. After all, it is taxpayers’ money that countries like Britain and the United States rely on to meet the health care, housing and educational needs of its people. And we have seen how these countries especially Britain used taxpayer money to bailout banks that should have gone bust due to the credit crisis. So if countries like the United Kingdom could derive so much benefits from taxes, who are we to shy away from generating more revenue from taxation.  

But I must concede, Britain and Sierra Leone are not comparable when it comes to benefits derived from taxation. This is because in Britain, the people benefit tremendously from the taxes they pay. This is evident improved social and health care and public transportation.

But most importantly, the burden of taxation is cushioned by the government’s ability to broaden its revenue base, create more jobs and the environment conducive enough to attract investors.

This brings me to the issue of remuneration for these tax vendors. I reckon that their patriotism has not taken them to the point where they have agreed to sell these local taxes without any remuneration. And there lies my concern. If they are going to be adequately compensated, the questions that readily beg for answers are: How much are the tax vendors getting as commission for each tax sold. How many tax vendors have been drafted so far to drive sales? What mechanisms have been put in place that will ensure that this unorthodox tax collection method is not fraught with fraud and inconsistencies?

But this is not the case in Sierra Leone. Investor confidence is still at its lowest ebb. Foreign investors shy away from the country because the infrastructures and amenities to lubricate their businesses are still in their shambled state. A shinning example is the road network, electricity and a conducive business environment.

In a country where the vast majority live below the poverty belt, where unemployment is exponentially high, I wonder how many people could afford to part with Le5,000.00 in an improvised country like this. As it is, the payment of taxes seems to be comparably less productive this year than it was last year and reasons are that people are seeing their money worth in the so-called investment drives of the tax collecting body.  Now it has resorted to hassling for taxes to be collected, last year, people voluntarily queued to pay.

In all of this, I have got to reason, tax shouldn’t be so taxing if only the people get to see that the value for their money; it must always be sensible and hassle-free mechanism. 

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