Mar 15, 2010, 10:38 AM
The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) recently held a stakeholders’ forum for National Assembly members on the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) in The Gambia.
The seminar, organised by the GRA through funding and support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was held at the National Assembly Chambers, on Independence Drive in Banjul.
Participants were introduced to topics such as the general principles of VAT, policy, regulations, administrative procedures and legislations.
The seminar was also designed to be a practical convergence in context with examples and exercises to provide the essential knowledge and also the opportunity to share experiences on technical, administrative and regulatory VAT issues in enhancing skills, providing relevant information and encouraging participation.
Other topics included the Gambia National VAT policy, how VAT works and its experiences in the country which were followed by questions and answers.
Speaking earlier, GRA Commissioner General, Ansumana Trawally, said the GRA, being one of the most significant components and strategic national institutions in The Gambia, has placed high premium on taxpayer education and the component is one of the institution’s compliance strategies.
He said they tried to create a more awareness campaign capable of institutionalizing the “culture of belonging, partnership and participation” for all and sundry in the business of taxation.
Mr Trawally said the seminar, premised under the VAT and targeting sixty 60 members of the National Assembly for the first time in the country, was vital.
“The event plays a critical role in the development strategy of the Gambia Revenue Authority’s strive and continued quest for effective and efficient revenue mobilization,” he noted.
He added that the coming of VAT is part of government’s fiscal reforms in line with Articles 13 and 17 of the ECOWAS protocol geared towards making economies within the West African region to align and implement VAT in their national fiscal policies of which The Gambia is no exception.
He said the introduction of VAT to a developing and transitional economy like The Gambia supposed not to bring any radical shift in prices as it is a consumption tax on which the burden lies on the final consumer and not the supplier.
He noted that VAT is not a new tax burden but instead replaces the repealed sales tax.
He said the increasing prices on basic commodities is a gross misnomer that calls for greater public perception and understanding of VAT, while calling for understanding of VAT being a national policy and an enacted law, legislated based on subscribing to the ECOWAS protocol, through the support and approval ofthe President.
He also pointed out that changing perception, creating awareness and enlightening the public on taxation matters, particularly on VAT, which is a herculean task, still remain a challenge to the GRA.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, in his keynote address, said the VAT sensitization seminar for NAMs was long overdue.
Hon. Bojang added that over the past five years the government introduced a number of Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms, citing that these reforms are expected to promote macroeconomic stability, improve revenue mobilization, promote efficiency in resource allocation and provide information on stock of areas and the public debt, which shall also ensure integrity in the budgetary process and improve resource management and financial accountability.
He pointed out that VAT is seen as more broad-based revenue enhancing consumption tax than the current sales tax which applies to limited domestic supplies of goods and services and imports.
“It also has the ability to enhance both domestic and international competitiveness since the tax does not stick to local businesses and exports,” Hon. Bojang said, adding that VAT is also self-policing and has no cascading effect like the sales tax it replaced.”
Speaker Bojang added that an independent efficient and effective legislature needs adequate capacity development and awareness that the quality of service offered by the National Assembly members and the National Assembly service staff should be able to show resourcefulness, dynamism and functionality.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdoulie Jallow, said that despite the challenges, they had to implement the VAT as part of the ECOWAS key integration process in the harmonization of indirect taxes.
Mr Jallow highlighted the significance of the VAT, saying it helps to address the issue of cascading effects in taxation.
While comparing both taxes, he said the consumers were paying tax twice without realizing it, but with the introduction of the VAT, tax is only paid once by the consumer.
Jallow thanked the UNDP for their support for the effective implementation of the VAT in the country.