A Survey conducted by legal practitioners across the country has showed that taxation laws are perceived as the most unfair and less adapted by members of the public.
The survey, “Study on User’s perception of the quality and impact of Rwanda laws,” was conducted by Adec Associates Ltd.
In a situational analysis, the survey authors said 64 per cent of the respondents said laws are at moderate satisfactory level, leaving the rest to think that they are simply in place.
Working under the auspices of the Rwanda Law Reform Commission, according to the authors, Rwandans are more conversant with laws governing civil matters, such as matrimonial regime laws, criminal laws like the Penal Code, and environmental laws.
Presenting the findings, yesterday, in Kigali, David Bikesha, a lecturer and the co-author of the yet-to-be validated report, said many of the sampled 263 respondents decried the nature of some laws, specifically those related to tax and land, while the rest received a positive feedback.
“The ‘Study on user’s perception of the quality and impact of Rwandan laws’ was commissioned to carry out an assessment of the quality and impact of the laws of Rwanda from the users’ perception. The findings are also formulated as actionable recommendations to be taken for purposes of keeping a responsive legal system to Rwandan changing circumstances,” he said.
Inside the survey
The respondents included ordinary citizens, local leaders, legal practitioners, civil society organisations, members of the central government, journalists, and religious leaders.
The survey, which ranked perception using scoring and categorisation designs, said that while in Kirehe District, for example, awareness, quality and impact on family laws scored 3.4 out of five, criminal laws scored 3.08, environmental law 2.8, while land related laws scored 2.2.
Taxation law scored poorly at 1.8 out of five.
While the argument was whether existing laws are accessible to members of the public, the same taxation laws scored lower in almost every covered district.
In Huye District, it was at 1.3, while in Nyagatare it scored slightly above 2.0. In Musanze, it scored 2.06 while Kicukiro District scored relatively lower, at 2.03, on the awareness and impact.
The taxation laws, according to the report, include law on 2005 direct taxes on income; 2005 on tax procedures; the 2012 law on the code of Value Added Tax; the East African Community customs Management Act of 2004 and the amendments to the exemption regime of the EAC Customs Management Act.
While researchers qualified findings by asking more questions in 10 surveyed districts, according to Bernard Mfitumukiza, co-author of the report, negative perceptions on taxation laws were mainly due to imposed harsh penalties related to failure on the usage of electronic billing machines and ignorance of the existing laws.
“Taxation laws exhibited negative impact in causing business closures of small enterprises and had impacted negatively on the Rwanda Revenue Authority taxpayer relationship. In Kicukiro District, for example, respondents stated that lack of consultations with taxpayers in legislation process resulted in unfair laws with extreme penalties for defiant taxpayers,” Mfitumukiza said.
On the other hand, the findings on other laws revealed that, to some extent, laws had impacted the users, while the negative impacts had been captured and responded to by both technical recommendations and emerging issues that attracted corrective mitigation.
Law commission reacts to survey
Reacting on the findings and relevance of the report in the legal system, Evode Uwizeyimana, deputy chairperson of the Rwanda Law Reform Commission (RLRC), commended the survey and its relevance to the Commission, but said that although the findings might reflect the views of the public, the same cannot be said of the reality on the ground.
“People think freely and differently. A thief might decry the existence of Penal Code simply because it is a barrier to his motives and it is captured in research findings. For us, we take note of that alongside other reactions and might deliberate accordingly,” he said.
“The deliberations should as well lead to the modification of other laws in place. Since we have commissioned this survey, we will use some of the recommendations after it has been validated.”
The researchers said the findings provide both technical and non-technical areas that RLRC can use to develop an action plan to deliver on its mandate.
In a specific recommendation on taxation laws, the survey authors called on the Government to revise penalties levied against people who fail to comply with the use of electronic billing machines.
“Current laws are too harsh, especially Article 12, 15 and 17 on modalities of use of certified electronic billing machines compared to certain faults such as failure to report the malfunctioning of the devices within six hours,” the authors said in their recommendation.