Members of Parliament can play a significant role in enhancing tax revenue collection to help the country finance its development agenda and ultimately achieve self-reliance, a top government official said yesterday.
Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, the minister of state in charge of economic planning, was addressing a joint session of senators and deputies at the Parliament Building, Kimihurura.
The consultative meeting sought a greater involvement of parliamentarians in government’s efforts to mobilise more domestic revenue, particularly tax collection, to help wean the country off aid, and to urge the lawmakers to participate in buying shares listed on local stock exchange.
“Mobilisation of tax revenue should not be the responsibility of a single entity or individual, but a shared obligation; we all need to work together to encourage citizens to be tax compliant as a way to build a self-sustaining economy,” said Ndagijimana, who was flanked by Richard Tusabe, the commissioner-general of Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA).
He and other officials called on the legislators to help increase public awareness about the importance of paying taxes and remitting on time, through outreach programmes and sustained tax education drives.
The meeting was organised by parliamentary Standing Committee on National Budget and Patrimony.
Rwandans have increasingly stepped up their contribution towards the national budget, which subsequently reduced dependence on foreign aid to 40 per cent of the National Budget in the Financial Year 2013/2014, and later to 38.1 per cent of the 2014/2015 financial year Budget.
MP Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka, the committee chairperson, said aid flows were increasingly dwindling and it was up to Rwandans to consistently pull resources for national development.
She also said there was need to grow local stock market as a resource mobilisation and wealth creation tool.
Sale of bonds
The government has also, in recent years, turned to sale of bonds as a way to raise funds to finance major development programmes, including the ongoing construction of the Kigali Convention Centre, the proposed Bugesera International Airport, among others.
The legislators also called for better mechanisms to broaden the tax base and to close existing loopholes that result in tax evasion.
Tusabe said they were committed to reinforcing existing measures to increase tax revenue collection, adding that they were increasingly employing ICT to help reach their target.
He said paying taxes was easier since taxpayers can now use mobile phones to honour their tax obligations while businesses are required to use Electronic Billing Machines (EBMs) in their operations.
In October, last year, RRA introduced a mobile telephone facility that allows people to declare and pay their taxes using mobile phones.
The facility, dubbed M-Declaration, was expected to enable more payments via any of the mobile money transfer platforms in the country, namely, MTN Mobile Money, Tigo Cash and Airtel Money.
Several legislators urged the tax body to ensure that more traders access and use the electronic billing machines, saying that some traders have complained about their colleagues who are possibly evading taxes because they are yet to embrace use of EBMs.
For MP Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, RRA needs to enforce tax compliance as evasion by some may discourage taxpayers who meet their obligations. “The challenge is to ensure tax compliance by all. RRA should step up vigilance to ensure that everyone pays their taxes accordingly.”
MP Amiel Ngabo also suggested that RRA needs to make sure that all businesses use electronic billing machines in their operations.