NRA Meets with Financial Parliamentary Committee

NRA Meets with Financial Parliamentary Committee The Management of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) led by Acting Commissioner-General Mr. Abdulai Conteh has meet with the Parliamentary Committee on Finance and Economic Development. The open-door meeting which was held on Tuesday, 24th May at the conference room of the Administrative Building of Parliament was to deliberate on the filing of Income Tax Returns. According to Mr. Conteh, the Committee requested a meeting with the Authority for explanation on legislative framework and other relevant structures being implemented to improve on the process of returns filing.

Briefing journalists at his Bathurst Street office, Mr. Conteh who is also NRA’s Director of Finance said the role of the Finance and Economic Development Committee of Parliament is important. He stated that as the Committee deals with topics of a general economic nature, it is only logical that it should consider Government’s revenue-raising plans. He noted that it is the Committee’s privilege to instigate inquiries on any matter within its remit, and explained that the role of the Committee in benchmarking financial performance cannot be overemphasised. Mr. Conteh observed that such meetings will help the Committee contribute meaningfully to strategies to improve revenue collection.

Elaborating on the legislative framework and structures that has been implemented by NRA’s Management to improve Income Tax Returns processing, the Commissioner of the Domestic Taxes Department, Ibrahim Sorie Kamara stated that the Finance Act, 2013 extended the Income Tax Returns filing deadline from 90 to 120 days to give more time to taxpayers to file their returns on time. He added that this has helped minimise Taxpayers requests for extension of filing Income Tax returns. It has also reduced defaults in meeting returns filing deadlines and associated penalties.

Commissioner Ibrahim Sorie Kamara also spoke about the introduction of the Domestic Tax Information System (DTIS). He said this system has improved efficiency in processing transactions and controls detecting and deterring non-compliance. He also explained that the Authority is on the verge of launching an Electronic Filing (e-filing) system which is an online method of electronically submitting tax returns. He said this will improve on the filing process, and make it as easy as possible for Taxpayers to comply with their obligations. He explained that under the current manual system, Taxpayers have to collect tax returns forms from NRA offices across the country, before completing and submitting them physically for processing. With the introduction of e-filing however, he said that Taxpayers can file returns remotely and electronically within few minutes which saves time and reduce transaction cost.

The Assistant Commissioner of the Small and Medium Tax Office, Mr. Shiaka Kamara did a presentation on filing of Income Tax Returns. He said the Income Tax Act, 2000 as amended provides the legal framework relating to the taxation of income. He said the term ‘income’ is not defined but classified in relation to its source and includes salary, wages, profit, gain, interest, rent, commission, dividend and royalty among others. Mr. Kamara explained that Income Tax is imposed on every person who has a chargeable income for the year of assessment unless exempted by an Act of Parliament or a statutory document. Therefore, he added, businesses, companies, professional in the business of running an office or practice, partnerships and trust whose chargeable income exceeds Le 6million for the tax year are all required to pay Income Taxes. He however clarified that employees with one source of income or one employer during the tax year upon which tax has been fully withheld under the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) Scheme are not required to file an Income Tax Return. He cautioned that good recording keeping is essential to prevent omission of deductable expenses and to pay correct taxes. Records, he added, should be retained for the greater part of 6 years for audit purposes. He said failure to keep records could result to higher taxes

Mr. Kamara further spoke about the segmentation of taxpayers into three categories: large, medium and small. The aim of this segmentation he explained is to better serve the unique needs of different groups of taxpayers, particularly large taxpayers who contribute over 80% to NRA’s revenue mobilisation drive. As a result, he said taxpayer services have been enhanced which has consequently boosted compliance with tax obligations such as returns filing. Mr Kamara stated that several sensitisation campaigns have been held with Taxpayers and Tax Consultants to improve knowledge on taxpayer obligations and penalties for default to improve voluntary compliance. He said enormous effort is being made to simplify the filing process with Taxpayer Services staff having been trained to assist Taxpayers to fill their returns.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee in his response requested the establishment of a ‘help desk’ in Parliament to help Parliamentarians complete their tax returns. The Acting Commissioner, Abudulai Conteh in conclusion expressed his gratitude to all Parliamentarians for their support to the NRA in its efforts to modernise tax laws adding that the NRA values the good relationship it has with Parliament. The Director of Finance also appreciated the Finance Committee for trying to strengthen ties with the NRA to address challenges at hand. He pledged NRA’s commitment to continue to work closely with the Committee.