In a bid to actualize President Bio’s pledge of increasing domestic revenue to 20% of gross domestic product by 2023, the National Revenue Authority (NRA) has embarked on series of activities geared towards making the commitment a reality. Practical and concrete steps have been taken within the institution to breathe life into words, and actualize the president’s dream.
The digital revolution which has swept the world in the last two decades leaving societies cashless but moneyed, is breezing across the west coast of Africa. The NRA which is the body saddled with the responsibility of collecting revenue, streamlining and mainstreaming revenue mobilization has begun taking tangible steps to enhance its operational structures and processes.
Three fundamental reforms have commenced already in the NRA that will in the medium and long-term bolster revenue generation and increase public confidence in the institution. The ASYCUDA World, the Electronic Cash Register (ECR) and the Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS) have been introduced with some already on test run, whilst other components will commence soonest as contracts have been awarded for their operations. The ASYCUDA World which was launched some months back, is a web-based program that allows businessmen to start their transaction documents with the NRA from any part of the world and at any time. It eases the burden on particularly importers who buy goods from different parts of the world, paving way for them to check the custom duties for their goods and initiate engagement with the NRA as long as there is connectivity where they are. ASYCUDA World is being implemented with the intent of minimizing the cost of doing business both on the part of the businessmen and customs officials. It also significantly reduces clearance time of goods on the part of the trader thereby enhancing the business climate. It is more convenient for importers since they can start processing their importation processes from any part of the world as long as they have internet connection and other equipment to upload, attach and submit commercial documents electronically.
Another system that will soon be launched is the Electronic Cash Register or ECR. The ECR is an electronic cash ledger that contains cash payments made to business entities by a tax payer including GST payments. It is intended to create a platform for NRA to monitor small business houses’ transactions in order to track their tax liabilities and for prediction of turnover. It contains both software and hardware components that will be inextricably linked to the NRA system. This will enhance NRA’s capacity to monitor business transactions and to determine exactly what percentage of tax like GST, business entities should pay to government in real time. The overall intent is to eliminate under payment and for prediction of government’s expected income from such taxes. Every transaction in these business places will be electronically captured by the device and the information stored in the hardware which the NRA or its service contractor controls.
The reforms process within the NRA will also witness the introduction of the Integrated Tax administration system or ITAS. The ITAS will integrate the various stand-alone legacy systems into a fully automated solution for administration of domestic taxes. It enables taxpayers do online registration, filing, payment and status, whilst also providing for real time monitoring of accounts. The ITAS bolsters fairness and transparency in the tax collection system and at the same time curbs human to human contact which often leaves room for fraud. The ITAS contract has been awarded to two foreign based companies Techno Brain Global, Crown Agent and a local ISP Tiwai Memory Masters and full implementation is expected by end of the year 2020.
In an effort to ensure the full grasp of the reform process by NRA, the Deputy Commissioner General (DCG) Jeneba Kpaka-Bangura and other senior officials embarked on experience sharing and learning visits to other parts of the world where these systems have taken root and created the desired impact. In April, the DCG was in China on a session to streamline tax compliance, status quo and suggestions for improvement with emphasis on digitization. The Chinese are keen on giving technical and other subsidiary support to the NRA for the realization of their digitization drive. Early this month, the DCG was also in Estonia with other top government officials. Estonia is one of the countries with an admirable digital system that can be replicated or domesticated to suit our own unique needs. The DCG benefitted a lot from the China and Estonia experiences and is now certified in “The use of ICT for better governance”. These efforts will give the NRA the necessary impetus and drive to give digitization a new lease on life, and place it at the forefront of the digital revolution that is about to engulf Sierra Leone.