Many people will be surprised to know that they pay taxes every time they pay for a product or service.
Many of us ordinary folks believe that it is people who own stalls in markets, traders with big shops, hoteliers and industrial giants who pay taxes.
We see big and important people making speeches and awarding or being awarded trophies on the “Tax Payers’ Day” and conclude that we are unlucky not to be stinking rich to merit awards and trophies and lucky that we keep our money to ourselves and do not pay taxes.
We are happy somewhat that Rwanda Revenue Authority agents do not look twice at us as they move from place to place to verify and ensure that taxes that build the nation are collected.
We are happy that our assets are not auctioned because we under-declared or did not declare our tax obligations in a bid to evade paying taxes after all we have no taxes to report.
The truth, however, is that we all pay taxes when we pay for a product or service. The traders and service providers in addition to the price of a product/service make us pay more money in form of taxes.
They are expected to be people of integrity, separate the tax money from their operating capital and forward it to RRA as taxes in form of Value Added Tax (VAT).
Every time you buy a product or service you pay taxes which traders are supposed to retain, declare and pay to the tax body on our behalf. Traders do not pay taxes; consumers, you and I, do.
Many traders and service providers may not be honest in the way they forward the taxes we pay to the tax Authority.
Taxes are collected from us in form of cash and traders like many of us have ideas on how to use cash particularly if they do not declare it to the tax body.
They can delay declaring it, they can declare less or they may not declare it at all as if we did not pay it in the first place. In some cases they lie that we did not buy their products or services yet we paid our money to them to forward it to RRA in form of taxes.
Others lie that we paid less so they keep to themselves the balance of what we paid.
We pay taxes in Rwanda, like all citizens of other countries, so that the government can use it to keep peace and security, build hospitals, pay doctors, teachers and other public employees, build roads and do the all things we could not do as individuals.
If it feels safe to walk on roads and streets that are lit at night, if it is good to carry out our daily business and chores knowing that criminals armed or not will not demand to take our property and life simply because they can threaten or actually harm us and if we get services we need from government, it is because we paid taxes that the government uses.
People who do not pay taxes and those who take away our money in form of taxes but do not forward it to the RRA do not cheat important people in government; they deny us who need the service the government is supposed to deliver.
One of the many ways the tax authority uses to make sure that the money we pay to the government as taxes so that it can do for us what makes our lives feel safe and healthy is to examine and verify the records of traders and service providers including receipt books.
It is proof that you and I paid for the product and service. Many people who are supposed to retain and forward our taxes to the tax authority, however, do not but instead use it to solve their personal and family problems and when the RRA agents come to verify whether our taxes were forwarded there is no evidence that we paid because we did not ask for the receipt.
Some traders and service providers do keep two types of receipt books; the genuine one that they show to the tax authority agents and another from which they pluck receipts for people who do not care about the money they leave behind as taxes.
When you do not ask for the receipt and when you do not insist on a genuine receipt you allow the traders and service providers an opportunity to decide whether to report that you left behind your money as taxes or to keep and use it to solve their personal issues and most cases they choose the latter.
You can make sure that the money that traders and service providers get from you as taxes is forwarded to RRA as VAT by asking for a receipt every time you pay for a product or service.
It is your right to demand for a receipt but it is your obligation to pay taxes, so demand proof that you have paid. Do not just ask for a receipt, ask for a genuine one.
A genuine receipt is proof that you paid for the product or service and paid taxes so that Rwanda can grow as a country. Ask for a genuine receipt every time you pay for a product or service.
In future RRA should find ways of sensitizing people who pay for products and services to demand for receipts and genuine receipts.
Recognition for people who demand and keep receipts could be considered in a bid to inculcate a culture of demanding receipts.