SRA touted as our saviour in this economic crisis
In a depressed economy such as ours, the Swaziland Revenue Authority has become the most important vehicle to government for raising money. King Mswati III is also excited about SRA, as he has indicated in his speeches. The authority was officially launched last month.
BHEKITHEMBA DLAMINI and MANTOE PHAKATHI report.
The launch of the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) last month raises expectations towards the economic recovery of this country.
Faced with a challenge of widening government’s purse to get the country out of the on-going fiscal crisis, SRA has a mammoth task ahead.
The March 11 launch graced by King Mswati III and the Queen Mother marked the beginning of a challenging journey for the organisation that will modernise the country’s tax collection and administration – a long overdue process.
Also present at this historic event was the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) executive secretary, Twelopele Moremi, and her deputy, Dumisani Mahlinza.
Heads of revenue authorities such as Lesotho and South Africa also came to be witnesses as the country put in place its own organisation that will modernise tax collection and administration.
The grand occasion that attracted a lot of who-is-who of the country from different sectors belied the hard work. Indeed, the road ahead is long and winding but the organization is confident that it will live to the nation’s expectations.
“We are equally aware of the challenges before us and we will tackle them with skill and passion,” said SRA chairperson Ambrose Dlamini. Globalization is at the top of the list of challenges for SRA because the increased mobility, to a large extent, increased the mobility of tax bases and potentially reducing the tax rates and revenue.
“We must be aware of the fact that as trade liberalisation makes it easier to serve national markets from locations abroad, so firms’ decisions as to where to invest are more likely to be affected by tax considerations,” said Dlamini.
He said, locally, the low levels of tax compliance place additional pressure on tax revenues while upward pressures re-main apparent in financing the social and economic objectives of the country.
To address these issues he proposed a convergence in tax policy and its administration to ensure that revenue collection is carried out efficiently. As a result, through its five-year strategic plan, SRA will minimise its cost of collection and enforce compliance by streamlining of its internal processes and developing IT-based and other modern solutions such as the introduction of Value Added Tax, Taxpayer Identification Number and intensify taxpayer education.
“We are also engaging with our counterparts in South Africa and Mozambique in a bid to reaching agreements to contribute towards easier cross border trade processes and to curb cross border misconduct,” said Dlamini.
He said SRA also agreed that the border processes need to be simplified and harmonised and that cooperation with neighbouring countries will significantly reduce the cost of compliance for taxpayers.
The authority is very much aware of sceptics who think they are not cut out to deliver world-class tax collection and administration.
However, Dlamini assured everyone that SRA has the right skills and will to deliver to the nation’s satisfaction. SRA will not tolerate any tax evasion by anyone and the authority will ensure that it uses the law to its full capacity to ensure compliance.
This is part of the price that the nation needs to pay to restore the country’s fiscal stability.
According to the Prime Minister, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, the launch of SRA comes at a significant moment when government Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap takes shape.
“Implementation of the roadmap will mean sacrifices within all sectors of the economy,’’ said the PM.
“As they say in athletics, there is no gain without pain.”
He said the concept of equitable revenue collection demands that all citizens and residents of the country comply with their tax and customs duty obligations.
He noted that the existing taxpayer culture in the country leaves a lot to be desired which calls for a taxpayer compliance awareness.
“Restoring fiscal stability, and providing resources for achieving the ambitious targets we have set ourselves in the National Development Strategy necessitate a universal commitment to paying what is rightfully due to government by way of taxes and customs duties,” said the PM.
He declared government’s full support for the authority which he described as both a protagonist and catalyst. While the King acknowledged the role SRA will play in driving the country’s fiscal stability, he said the organisation is not the only solution to the country’s challenges but one of the building blocks in the country’s development efforts.
”The establishment of the Swaziland Revenue Authority marks the beginning of such an exercise to base our revenue administration decisions on international best practice and run our public institutions along the lines of efficiency,” said the King.
He noted that Swaziland was the only country in the region without a revenue authority and said the country would seek advice and assistance from its neighbours who already have well established organisations.
He however urged SRA to intensify its awareness creation on the new organisation so that people do not view it as a monster but an instrument aimed at improving the country’s revenue base.
“Now that the revenue authority has been set up, it is imperative that it introduces the value added tax to increase the revenue base,” said the King.
He urged SRA to work hard so that Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole does not keep urging government to reduce its expenditure because there are insufficient funds.
The King said SRA should, however, make an assessment of the different sectors of business and subdivide companies according to their sizes so that small businesses are not taxed to their closure.
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