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NRA – Beyond revenue mobilization

NRA – Beyond revenue mobilization

I told a colleague a fortnight ago, that public education, especially on tax issues  is NOT and event but rather, a process that would take time to accomplish. In public relations, there is what we refer to as the ‘publics’ and for most time, these ‘publics’ should be targeted when addressing a given issue. (Photo: Pa John Baimba Sesay)

The National Revenue Authority, insofar as educating the ‘publics’ on issue could go, has been doing its level best. Take for instance, matters having to do with the Income Tax Department like the filing of Income Tax Returns; this has been a continuous process. The staff at the Income Tax Department have  over the years been involved in not educating the ‘target audience’ on the need to file in their income tax returns, but have also been educating  people on the consequences of failing to meet that part of the contract.

Again, because of the fact, that there has been this continuous public education drive by the NRA on tax matters, there has been an encouraging support from the general public, especially from the taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations. Don’t forget, last year, despite the economic meltdown that the world encounter, the NRA was able to generate more than the target that was given by government.

This is also the case with even the Customs and Excise Department; these department is charged with a number of functions, among them; helping to maintain national security. Don’t ask how-simply, by preventing the importation of unlawful goods into the country, the Customs and Excise Department to a large extent has been helping in securing our national borders.  It should also be noted, that as a result of the unflinching commitment of staff of the NRA, especially the operational departments (Customs, Income Tax, GST and Non-Tax) there has been a good result in terms of revenue mobilization by the Authority in general.

No need denying the fact that the NRA, like other departments and agencies of government may be faced with few challenges but definitely, challenges are meant to be met and overcome. And this was the case with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax in January 1st this year. Practically, the growth of a nation is based on the level of readiness on the part of its citizens to meet their own part of the social contract, signed between those in power and those electing people in governance.

The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax by government in 2010 was in direct response to the urgent need for Sierra Leone’s socio-economic development. Over the years, it has been emphasized and still the NRA has continued to emphasize, that the GST is not a new or additional tax, but rather a replacement of other (seven in total) taxes that were in existence prior to the introduction of the GST.  Generally GST is good and acceptable for us as a post war nation.

Abdulai Conteh ensures  NRA finances are well managed

Abdulai Conteh ensures  NRA finances are well managed

But we must know, however that with the introduction of the GST, government, cognizance of the concerns of the people, took into account the need to have goods that should be exempt from GST. Section 12 of the 2009 Goods and Services Tax Act makes provision for exemption from GST. It states that the individuals, organizations and businesses set out in the Third Schedule are relieved from payment of GST and they include, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Commonwealth, Foreign embassies and Missions (Reciprocal only),other international agencies subject to agreement with the Government of Sierra Leone, duly ratified by Parliament and specifically providing for relief from payment of local taxes on goods and services and an import of goods (including foodstuffs) for use in rehabilitation or relief.

The second schedule of the Act provides for the Exempt supplies under the GST. They include: Animals, fish and birds imported for breeding and rearing purposes; seeds, bulb rooting imported for propagation. The description for the above supply is thus: Live asses, mules and hinnies, live marine mammals, live fish and aquatic invertebrates (excluding ornamental fish and pets), safe to eat fruits, seeds, bulbs, roots, nuts and vegetables. Also, supplies like rice in its raw state an exempt under the GST and the description for this supply, according to the Act is: rice is considered to be in its raw state even if it has undergone stripping or polishing. Also, supplies like: agricultural inputs, which covers chemicals used solely as agricultural inputs, including all forms of fertilizers, acaricides, fungicides, rematicides, growth regulators, pesticides, veterinary drugs and vaccine and animal feed unfit for human consumption.

Another exempt supply under the GST is education services. These include tuition or instruction for students provided by an institution duly registered or licensed by the appropriate institution being–(a) a pre-primary, primary or secondary school;(b) a technical college, community college or university;(c) an educational institution established for the promotion of adult education, vocational training, improved literacy or technical education;(d) an institution established for the education or training of physically or mentally handicapped persons;(e) and published by the Minister responsible for education in the Gazette. Medical services and pharmaceuticals like medical services mosquito nets; and a list of drugs approved and published in the Gazette by the Ministry of Health for treatment of Malaria, HIV-AIDS, leprosy, tuberculosis, snake bites, rabies and laser fever and condoms are all exempt under the GST. There are several other exempt supplies under the GST Act.

As I said from the onset, the GST Act is one that was enacted by government, through Parliament to provide for the imposition of a broadbased tax on the consumption of goods and services in Sierra Leone .So far, the spirit upon which the Act was enacted has been gaining momentum. People have been complying with their GST payment and I remember when Mercury International, first made their payment to the NRA; this, to me was an historic event, since people initially wanted to reject the Tax. But as a matter of fact, there are exempt supplies under the GST and people must take note of this. It would therefore be unfair and unacceptable for anyone to charge GST on exempt supplies.

But in all of this, it should be underscored, that the revenue generated by the NRA is not placed in the accounts of individuals but rather, into the Consolidated Fund as instructed by the NRA Act 2002. Again, with an effective Finance Department in place at the NRA, it is paramount to state, that this department, headed by Abdulai Conteh has been ensuring that the funds of the Authority are clean and efficiently managed.  So the NRA should always be looked sat not only from the viewpoint of revenue mobilization, but also should be understood from it role in national development. Wishing is all a pleasant start of another week.

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