STATEMENT BY COMMISSIONER GENERAL
Good evening to you all!
Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel greatly privileged and humbled by your presence to grace this important event in our calendar of activities set aside to celebrate and recognise our most compliant taxpayers. In line with best practices, we have set aside this day to recognise and thank our valuable customers, you the taxpayers, for your continued compliance with The Gambia’s revenue laws. Given the pivotal role you play in the financing of the Government development agenda, we have endeavoured to make this day an annual event in order to emphasise the importance of complying with our revenue laws and to publicly congratulate the most compliant taxpayers.
I believe you will all agree with me that it is difficult for most of us to part with money, but even more so when it is about meeting our tax obligations. The American Humourist, Evan Esar captured this difficulty well when he said: "Some taxpayers close their eyes; some stop their ears, some shut their mouths, but all pay through the nose."
The former US President Ronald Reagan also described tax policies in tax economies such as The Gambia well when he said “Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it”.
With these few famous quotations on the tricks of taxation your Excellences, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, we can now appreciate the sacrifices of our valued taxpayers in general but more especially those we are recognizing today. They are the ones among many who have shown utmost commitment and dedication to service, the service of nation building as demonstrated through their timely filing of accurate returns or declarations, and making timely payments as per the requirements of the revenue laws. We hope that this achievement will further encourage these institutions and businesses to maintain the standards already reached and help inspire others to emulate.
The Gambia Revenue Authority like many of its counterparts around the world is faced with the perennial problem of compliance with revenue laws. The problem of tax compliance is as old as taxes themselves. There is hardly any tax authority in the world that receives one hundred percent tax compliance from taxpayers. As is natural with humans and business entities, writing that cheque or making that payment to the taxman on a quarterly or yearly basis is an undesirable endeavor from the perspective of the taxpayer. But as a country that relies on revenues generated principally from taxes, paying taxes becomes a civic duty.
The requirement for citizens to comply with tax obligations is premised on the philosophical social contract between the citizens and the State. Under that social contract, the citizen undertakes to pay taxes to the State to promote the wellbeing and good governance of society. In essence, the payment of taxes by citizens and other taxpayers is exchange on the part of the taxpayer for the provision and enjoyment of basic facilities that makes life comfortable and bearable for the taxpayer. Therefore, compliance with tax laws is a repetition of the undertaking of the citizen under the social contract to pay his/her own fair share of taxes.
Distinguished Ladies & Gentlemen,
Compliance with tax laws is not just restricted to the making of payment to the taxman but also include filing or submitting a tax return within the stipulated period, correctly stating income and deductions and where applicable, paying the assessed taxes by the due date. Therefore, it goes without saying that the development of The Gambia, a country with no natural resources, will depend largely on the revenues generated from taxes. If The Gambia is to develop to the country that we all aspire to live in, it becomes incumbent on us as taxpayers to fulfil our tax obligations to engineer the socio-economic development of our country.
While the formulation of tax policies lies in the domain of the Executive and the enactment of tax laws in the National Assembly, The Gambia Revenue Authority’s mandate is exclusive to tax administration and in pursuance of this mandate, the National Assembly has conferred on the Authority powers deemed sufficient to compel compliance with tax laws. The Gambia Revenue Authority remains steadfast in pursuing its mandate- to ensure that everyone (individuals and entities) pay their fair share of taxes as determined and legislated by the National Assembly.
While the powers conferred on the Authority to ensure compliance are quite strong in nature, good judgment dictates that engagements with taxpayers in a forum like this will yield the desired result without the need to invoke the powerful element of the law.
Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, the need to engage our taxpayers in a cordial manner necessitated the setting aside of this day to recognise those taxpayers that have made the execution of our mandate easier by their prompt filing and payment of their fair share of taxes. These compliant taxpayers we are about to recognize today are indeed the cream of our taxpayer population who have been consistently filing tax returns and making tax payment on or before the due dates. They also include those making the most accurate customs declarations and paying the right duties with minimal intervention from GRA. We are indeed proud of them all!
We are a proud tax administration today, thanks to our esteemed taxpayers. It is through their collaboration, partnership, and continued commitment to tax payment that GRA now accounts for more than 70% of Government recurrent expenses. The average annual revenue growth since the advent of GRA from 2007 till date stands at 10%. This achievement in revenue mobilisation has given Government greater leverage in driving its development agenda forward.
Your Excellences, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, through the compliance of these esteemed taxpayers; GRA was able to exceed the revenue targets set for it by Government in most recent years from 2012 to 2018. In the previous year (2018) for example, GRA was given a revenue target of D8.05 billion but the Authority end up collecting D9.13 billion, which represented D1.08 billion or 13 per cent above the set target. GRA revenue performance of 2018 also represented a nominal revenue growth of D1.16 billion or 15 per cent compared to the 2017 revenue collection of D7.97 billion.
Thus, as the number one revenue collector for Government, GRA is committed to continue strengthening the partnership with our clients through continual engagement and dialogue. We will continue to improve our systems, processes and procedures in order to make compliance easy and cost effective. We will also endeavour to make sure that your contact with the Authority’s staff is as pleasant as possible. To this end, the Authority has developed an easy-to-navigate website to help disseminate taxpayer and other information for public consumption. We have also developed information brochures for both Tax and Customs service to assist Taxpayers to comply with the requirements of the revenue laws. Currently, we are reviewing our revenue laws with a view to making them simpler for our esteem taxpayers.
In addition, following the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool (TADAT) assessment in April 2018, the Authority developed a reform work plan meant to address identified weaknesses of the tax administration. Already, a Resident Technical Assistant is in house to help implement these reforms through the support of development partners like the IMF, EU, US Treasury for which we are most grateful.
We have every hope that these multi- pronged approaches will further improve our service delivery for the benefit of our esteem taxpayers.
In conclusion, as we continue to ease compliance through the simplification of our laws, processes and procedures by leveraging on modern ICT, and facilitating trade, we will remain even more vigilant against deliberate non-compliance through fraud, negligence and avoidance techniques. Thus, I would implore you all to continue to be good taxpayers as tax payment is indeed noble and divine. I want to sincerely thank the organising committee, for the excellent preparation of this event. Also want to thank the Management & Staff of Paradise Suite Hotel for hosting this wonderful programme.
With respect to the outgoing Chairman & other Board Members, you have done great job for your country and we promised that the GRA Management will keep the momentum.
For the entire Management & Staff of the Authority, I thank you for your continuous support and commitment to work. You have made my job easier, MAY ALLAH SWT REWARD YOU ALL!!
With these few remarks, I wish to take this opportunity on behalf of the Board of Directors and Management of the Authority to once again congratulate the awardees in the different categories and to thank you all our distinguished invited dignitaries for gracing the occasion. Please relax and enjoy yourself as this day is set purposely for you.
Thank you all for your kind attention.