It was one of the few days when taxpayers made merry and basked in honour before the Head of State for their role towards national development. The day was Saturday November 2, when the Rwanda Revenue Authority recognised firms and individuals who don’t need prompting before giving Caesar his due.
Others were awarded for encouraging and sensitising taxpayers to look at complying with tax guidelines as a collective responsibility and a way of partnering with the state in national development.
Business Times’ Ben Gasore caught up with some of the firms and individuals who were recognised by the taxman and shared with us about what inspires them to ‘part’ with their hard-earned cash without batting an eyelid.
“Paying taxes is an enlightening flow of interest because when infrastructure is developed, the cost of doing business reduces. This attracts more investors into the country and more industries are set up to create jobs for people,” explained Ebenezer Asante, the MTN Rwanda chief executive officer in an interview yesterday.
“At the end of the day, the ordinary man has something in his pocket to spend on my network. By paying taxes you are only expanding the future of your business.”
Asante called on individuals, organisations and small-and-medium enterprises in the country not to tire with regard to paying taxes.
MTN Rwanda paid a total of Rwf24b in taxes last year. The telecom was recognised as the most compliant large taxpayer, together with 22 other firms and individuals, including I&M Bank Rwanda, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency, Safintra Rwanda and Bank of Kigali, which was awarded the Best and Exemplary Compliant Tax Payer for the Year 2013 Award. Samuel Nduwumwe and Ephrem Nsabimana were recognised for their hard work in promoting tax compliance in Gasabo and Nyamasheke districts, respectively.
Entrepreneurs Bernard Gatwa Rutabana and Dr. Jean Nyirinkwaya, Ikirezi Natural Products Limited and INILAK (Independent Institute of Lay Adventists in Kigali) scooped the medium taxpayers’ category awards.
In the small taxpayers category, Flexi Form Limited was awarded as the Most Tax Compliant together with APE Rugunga, African Evangelistic Enterprise and Carnegie Melon University.
Sandeep Phandis, the head of business at Safintra Ltd, a steel and roofing materials maker, said recognising taxpayers motivates them to even do better, and shows their efforts to support the Government’s Vision 2020 strategy. “We have no problem paying taxes because it is our duty as a responsible company that supports development programmes,” Phandis said.
Larson Naibo, the Bank of Kigali chief operations officer, said: “As the leading financial institution in Rwanda, we recognise the important role taxes play in stimulating the country’s socio-economic growth. It is imperative that business owners build a strong organisation culture towards paying taxes, as well as clear internal policies to ensure that all taxes are paid in a timely manner.”
He added that paying taxes in an accurate and timely manner helps business owners avoid penalties as well as maintain the reputation of their businesses.
“We are thrilled to have won the Best and Exemplary Compliant Tax Payer for the Year 2013 Award. The bank has invested in various channels through which both individuals and businesses alike can easily pay their taxes,” Naibo said.
He noted that Bank of Kigali has opened accounts for receipt of payments to Rwanda Revenue Authority and set aside a specific section within the main branch with a dedicated team to facilitate payment of taxes.
“We have also partnered with RRA to introduce BK tax online; an easy, convenient and eco-friendly channel through which businesses can make tax payments online. This eliminates the need for visits to the bank to make payments and improves efficiency for business owners,” he explained.
Sakyi Opoku, a senior marketing manager at MTN Rwanda, said paying taxes was the firm’s way of partnering with the Government in its development efforts.
“Paying taxes on time and without trying to evade through understating figures is a responsibility any firm should respect,” he noted.
“It helps you maintain your integrity as a firm and opens doors for you to get more businesses.”
Sakyi said that the telecom firm ensures that all its suppliers are taxed at the source and assured RRA the firm would continue to ensure that none of them reneges on their tax obligations.
This year, Rwanda moved up three places to 22nd position out of 189 countries surveyed globally compared to last year’s 25th on tax compliance, according to the World Bank Doing Business 2014 report that was released last week.
About 60.2 per cent of the 2013/14 financial year budget is being financed by locally-raised funds.
The Commissioner General of RRA, Ben Kagarama, said the tax body is targeting Rwf795.7b collections this fiscal year compared to Rwf665.8b collected last year.
“Tax procedures have been simplified and we now use technology to eliminate very many barriers that previously prevented the smooth payment of taxes. Platforms such as the electronic billing machine, electronic single window and mobile declaration have helped ease the collection of domestic taxes both inside the country and at the border posts,” Kagarama said.