12.29.2015

For Transparency In Tax Revenue

By Godlove BAINKONG, Cameroon Tribune
DGICameroon and Cameroonians, like the rest of the world, are just a few days away from 2016. A year that is obviously pregnant with a multitude of expectations by all and sundry.
Government is, no doubt, bracing up and devising every workable strategy to raise the FCFA 4,234.7 billion contained in the next State budget. At least to get earmarked life-changing projects
off the ground and possibly improve the living conditions of the population. Over the years, this has been the ardent desire of the Yaounde authorities.
Besides the oil sector, grants and loans; government is certainly counting much on non-oil revenue to lubricate its development machinery that had long swung into action with target to drive the economy to emergence by 2035. All eyes here are directed at the customs and taxation departments. With FCFA 2,316,580,000 as earmarked fiscal revenue for 2016 up from FCFA 2,096,530,000 in 2015, the already existing synergy between the revenue collectors will need to be more than ever strengthened. Anything short of celerity in mobilising the funds would be synonymous with shooting the State in the foot as the FCFA 4,234.7 billion is just a projection. Any counter-performance will greatly jeopardise project execution that government is counting on to lift the beneficiary population out of poverty and underdevelopment. The six per cent projected growth rate for 2016 is dependent on project execution and the timely execution of the project again depends on the availability of funds.
But above all, there will be need to inculcate transparency in the entire process. It is high time our taxation system and the process of collecting them cease from being seen as a way to stifle ingenuity and thwart nascent industries from blossoming. People should not pay taxes as if they were being punished. They should be made to understand why they are taxed the way they are and why and when each tax is supposed to be paid.
However, the much-clamoured synergy between taxpayer and collector can only yield desired fruits for the State if transparency is the watchword. Once under-the-table discussions between taxpayers and collectors, that at best satisfy the egocentric desires of the actors, thrive or when some taxpayers are stretched beyond limits and others left to go untouched, the process will continually be looked upon as witch-hunting or punishment to the weak and political foes.         
Taxes, like any other revenue, are meant to better the living conditions of the payer. Situations where roads, for instance, deteriorate beyond repairs even when tollgates are regularly paid or where revenue collectors erect skyscrapers here and there and arrogantly celebrate their billions amidst growing sufferings of the masses, to say the least, deter effective revenue collection.
Cameroonians and other businessmen therein should be painstakingly made to perceive that their taxes are needed to give development a chance. The message is easily channelled when what is collected today is done so in all transparency and used as such. The taxation department in 2015 began an operation of broadening the tax base which, from every indication, is yielding fruit. The Directorate General of Taxation reported that taxpayers have increased from 2,500 in the last census by the National Institute of Statistics to 96,791 as at September 2015. Thanks to broadening the tax base, revenue collection in the first nine months of 2015 fetched FCFA 1,300 billion for the State coffers. This, of course; is an encouraging move which should be courageously pursued to include bigwigs who had hitherto taken the pretext of militating for one political party or the other to evade taxes highly needed to advance socio-economic development.
Before turning to the money market, as government is increasingly doing-which is not bad anyway although it leads to indebtedness; it pays to have all internal resources sincerely mobilized and transparently used. This is a surmountable challenge as 2016 rumbles off.

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