Last evening, Rwanda Revenue Authority held a lottery on Rwanda Television during which four people won themselves different goodies, including smart phones and a motorcycle, after entering a draw initiated three years ago to help promote the culture of collecting receipts among Rwandan consumers.
The raffle competition, which has since seen about 300 consumers win various items, worth over 25 million, with several other prizes, including a car still up for grabs, is part of broader efforts by the tax authority to promote the use of Electronic Billing Machines (EBMs) in the country.
EBMs help the government to track and collect Value Added Tax from businesses, thereby reducing possibilities of tax evasion.
Currently, over 12,000 businesses are registered for VAT countrywide, while the number of EBMs increased from 500 in 2013 to nearly 14,000. While the prices of the machines remain relatively high, it is also worth noting that only businesses with an annual turnover of at least Rwf20 million are required by law to use EBMs in the billing process.
But some businesses continue to use all tricks to avoid issuing EBM receipts. Some do issue these receipts but deliberately indicate a lower amount to avoid meeting their tax obligations fully.
There are even some that have shamelessly tried to defraud the national coffers by presenting fictitious EBM receipts for a refund of supposed VAT payments they never incurred.
While RRA and other concerned authorities must take all the necessary measures to stop these malpractices, consumers have a key role to play in this endeavour.
First, consumers need to always collect their EBM receipts because, in doing so, they ensure that their VAT has gone to the state treasury, thus playing their civic duty.
Two, consumers should not allow traders to indicate less amounts on their receipts than they paid because, when they do, they are aiding and abetting the commission of a crime and denying the country badly needed resources.
And, by demanding receipts, buyers are able to keep tabs on their spending.
Similarly, businesses that use EBMs are able to better monitor their operations and to ensure proper bookkeeping.
Above all, both the buyer and the seller are able to play their role in the development of the country.