Windhoek-Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein is not satisfied that only about six percent, or N$242.78 million, of the N$4 billion owed to the state in taxes has been collected five months after the finance ministry introduced a tax amnesty for those in arrears with their obligated contributions to the Receiver of Revenue.
The finance ministry introduced the tax amnesty in February during which taxpayers in arrears were given a respite for a write-off of 80 percent of the combined interest and penalties. Those in arrears could however only qualify for the amnesty provided they paid off 20 percent of the total amount owed.
“This pattern is worrying, noting that tax arrears is money which is overdue to the Receiver but not paid. Ours is a rule-based country and tax rules have to be applied fairly. All taxpayers are expected to play by the rules and meet their tax obligations,” said
Schlettwein on Friday during a media briefing on Fitch Credit Ratings, the state of the economy and progress on the government’s contractual obligations.
A few analysts however questioned whether the government’s delay in meeting some of its contractual obligations has played a role in the minimal amount collected during the amnesty period.
However, Schlettwein noted that when the government owes its service providers there are unrelenting calls for it to meet its obligations.
“This is a fair call. And for that reason, the government commits itself to meeting its contractual obligations irrespective of the causes. Within this month, all budgeted outstanding obligations will be met this month and all other obligations will be met within this quarter,” Schlettwein stated.
”Let me end my statement by reflecting on the obligation of all juristic persons to meet their tax obligations fairly and on a timely basis. It is an obligation of all income earners to declare their income and file their tax returns timeously,” Schlettwein added.
To increase the efficiency of tax collection, the Receiver of Revenue has set up dedicated offices at each regional office to provide services to taxpayers participating in this amnesty programme.
“Let me take this opportunity to remind all taxpayers that the deadline for settling their outstanding arrears remains 31 July 2017. I urge all taxpayers with outstanding arrears to come forth and meet their obligations within this incentive arrangement. When the incentive programme lapses, the Receiver, for the fairness of the tax system, will have to step up actions to recover these outstanding balances,” Schlettwein warned.
The business community has welcomed the tax amnesty as an opportunity to get up to date with fiscal contributions.
According to the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s northern branch chairperson, Tomas Iindji, it is common knowledge that tax amnesties by governments do not come around often. Thus, he said, people should take the rare opportunity and get their tax affairs in order.
Iindji noted that the business community is the major source of revenue for the government and tax revenues are used to fund development projects such as construction and maintenance of roads, schools and hospitals, among others.