When we talk about better roads, improved health care, a better education system or salary increase, everyone is willing to be part of the discussion by way of providing solutions. It is the can-do attitude that draws such conversation around these issues.
However, when the conversation steers towards taxation and how to mobilise revenue for these needs, many will cringe; fold in complete disdain and a no-can-do attitude sets in. Yet, Taxation should be one of the most interesting topics to create debate and discussion. Therefore, we must talk about tax increments and cuts, exemptions, incentives, tax policies among others.
Taxation affects a large chunk of our lives both directly and indirectly. When you try to dodge the inevitable, it will always creep up on you in the future. It is therefore our duty to make the habit of contributing to discussions about taxation our business and see how to exploit the benefits of different policies that favour our business and work for this economy.
Following the recent proposed Tax amendments, the public has developed an awakened interest in what actually goes on in the corridors of taxation to include; how it affects the flow of their daily lives, businesses and the development of their country at large.
Welcome aboard, this is the kind of conversation we have been awaiting! The public is actually alert. I was recently having a chat with a long-time friend who has been in business for 20 years and he could hardly point out any policy he benefited from last financial year.
Who is to blame, the business man who does business without scrutinizing the economic trends that affect his business or the Government that brought in policies to favour his business. We need to stop the blame game and drop the “Gavumenti etuyambe” syndrome.
It has long been understood with great difficulty how it is both politically and religiously complicated to praise taxation. The ease only manifests when discussing the things that we spend our taxes on. Even then, for the most part, most of us rarely notice the positive developments with the majority having set up “permanent shop” in the critics’ arena. How is it so easy to praise the rewards while easily being dismissive of the process? Demonising the taxation system is only part of a larger psychological battle that should have no place in the developing world. The need to reframe the tax debate goes without say.
Wastage, fairness and inequality are some of the usual default topics cantered in a way that is meant to be representative of the taxation system in Uganda. How misguided. The issue of fairness always trickles down to who is most affected and how suddenly their lives are getting worse, not forgetting the pointers in the direction of the people whose lives are getting better from the taxes, either because they are benefiting directly or indirectly. The war on taxation usually ends on wastage and who is getting a better deal and yet that overzealous power can be easily channeled towards ideas on how what has been collected can be used to better services, develop sustainable policies, improve lives and the economy in the long run.
We should use taxation to build social solidarity, encourage feedback and returns and most of all use it to strengthen our patriotism and the desire for better and developed Uganda.
Tremendous attempts have already been made to modernise and automate processes both at International and Domestic levels. This gives plenty of room for efficiency, convenience and reliability, eliminating corruption and encouraging transparency. Let us all yearn to seek information and build our country. We should not underestimate the power of positive dialogue in framing policies and systems.
Taxes are not your enemy. As a tool, if used right, they can be used to generate revenue for the country. Revenue that is used for development ventures like; in the infrastructure business, education, security, and a good health care system among other benefits. It is Because of you the Taxpayer that all these services are provided. Taxes are also important in discouraging undesirable behaviour like unnecessary importation hence supporting local markets through heavy import tariffs, reducing harmful products from supermarket shelves and most importantly, distributing resources to reduce inequality in the country. Taxes can boost the low unemployment rates in the country though forming tax policies that encourage investment and in the long run job creation. The positive possibilities of a healthy taxation system are enormous which is why we should all make effort to contribute from our ventures. The idea we should therefore strive for is to develop a self-sustaining economy. Let us all bring that can-do attitude when it’s time to talk about tax compliance and be involved in proposing policies that work for our economy.
Even religion has endorsed Taxation as a good practise. You may want to read: in the Quran “Blessed are those who pay their taxes and there after go for prayers”.” The Bible also alludes to a number of teachings. For example in the book of Mathew17:24-27, 22:15-2, Jesus paid taxes and called on his disciples to do so, as well. Paul the apostle also discussed taxation, and wrote in the book Romans 13; “For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
Fellow countrymen, let us embrace Taxation by paying our dues on time, in the right amount and surely our country will be proud of us.
The Author works as the Manager Public & Corporate Affairs in Uganda Revenue Authority