Are taxes the necessary evil?

Ian Rumanyika

Ian Rumanyika

, Opinions

Necessity. It is that which balances choices and shades light on the one choice that we truly cannot do without. What is necessary has to happen for with predestination, it has already been marked as inevitable.

When we find ourselves hating on things that we need, then we indirectly baptise them as necessary evils. The lesson in this is that, given a good amount of light, everything has the ability to produce a shadow and if that is the case, shouldn’t our main concern lie in creating opportunities that eliminate these shadows.

There is a lot of power to be gained in magnifying the good. When you focus on the good the good eventually gets bigger and better. In this case, taxes have become our necessary evil, because in spite of all the good that can come out of paying them, many still avoid and dodge them.

So many times, government has been caught in a dilemma of policy reversal when a section/groups of those that are affected with the policy demand reduction or scrapping off the tax. The situation does not diminish in comparison when we think of our tax to GDP ratio of 14.35% or having only 1,360,000 taxpayers on the register and when many still resist being counted among those that painfully pay the “necessary evil” knowing how rewarding it is at the end of the day.

The need to eliminate the excuse of unawareness has seen URA officials grab tax education by the horns and with a determination they have taken it to schools, to the streets, and straight to the small business enterprises. Events have been organised in appreciation of those who pay regularly, prizes given out accordingly and services like TIN identification, guidance, informational brochures and booklets made easily accessible.

The tax language has been simplified and services automated for flexibility of the client. In short, there is much that has been done to highlight why it is necessary for us to pay taxes and fund government expenditure.

There is no reward to be gained from not paying taxes. Inherently, taxes are not evil, in fact, the fact that we love the rewards that accrue from paid taxes says a lot about their necessity and the damage that may result from not paying them. As a country we demand for well paved roads. We expect to have a strong sense of security in the country to enjoy the different freedoms, good services in the health care system, a strong and safe economic environment, good schools, and an impartial judicial system among other things.

In fact we compare Uganda with other countries and forget that these same countries pay more and can afford to donate some of their taxes to us. We wonder, “Are we being exploited? This is our hard earned money and we should therefore keep it to ourselves.” I don’t know how many times I have heard the public demand to know what their taxes are doing. The curiosity? That is commendable and henceforth we applaud you, for in every democracy, accountability is a key component. This is why URA started the campaign, My Taxes Work with the hope of showing the public evidence or the rewards that come from a largely tax compliant society.

Yes, paying taxes is not our favourite item on the to-do list, that we agree, but, might we fail to agree that we need them? That would be ridiculous and the thought of it enviably absurd. Taxes are part of the package deal when we say “government etuyambe.”

Better services require political will, better tax compliance and discipline. Based on the premise of noncompliance, many have willingly; with eyes wide open walked themselves into a deep pit of aggravated penalties to the point of no recovery. Many consider taxes to be evil for the wrong reasons.

Taxes are only evil if you do not fulfil your end of the bargain, and in that case, expect them to bite back. Those who do not pay taxes are holding the country back, leaving us dependant on donations and any other type of foreign help therefore increasing the country’s debt and vulnerability to the forces that can easily lead to loss of independence as a nation. In other words, you are sucking the country dry, demanding for better services and yet contributing to nothing. Paying taxes is necessary in every sense of the word.

As a country, we need to have a honest discussion in the way we value the necessity of taxes as a predominantly essential tool to our development. Therefore, we must abide accordingly, evil or not evil, the rewards will say it all and as citizens we shall demand for them better health services, roads, safe water, good salaries, better schools etc.

Ian M. Rumanyika
Public and Corporate Affairs Manager-URA

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