Government is on rampage to collect all possible taxes from a public that is already overburdened by a myriad of taxes largely collected from a small group.
Finance minister Matia Kasaija last week put his tax focus on telecom companies and banks saying a tax audit will be instituted because these firms are under-declaring their income and therefore paying less tax than they should otherwise pay.
He also warned members of the public who are under declaring – or not declaring at all – their rental income. These, he said, would pay a big price once caught.
The latest demand by Uganda Revenue Authority to banks to file with it details of bank balances, withdrawals and deposits of all their clients in the last one year is clearly extension of the government’s desire to collect every shilling in taxes they can lay their hands on.
It is all well for the State to collect taxes and all eligible to pay should comply because it is our collective contribution into the kitty that enables government to implement development projects and provide social services to citizens.
However, over the years government has come to act like the most important thing to do is to collect taxes and not how the taxes are spent. Thus while it is keen to follow every shilling that should be collected, similar zeal in not exhibited in ensuring that every shilling spent is properly spent and clearly accounted for.
The result is many Ugandans have lost trust in the State and have no qualms or guilt dodging taxes because they know the money collected will simply be wasted in ostentatious expenditures such as big cars for government fat cats, partisan political projects and the rest simply stolen.
The level and quality of social services – be it education, health, roads, etc – that the tax paying public gets in return is too appalling that one is not encouraged to comply.
The quality of services aside, the level of corruption in the country among government officials has reached epidemic levels. Many of the shopping malls, residential flats, hotels, high-end schools et cetera being built across the country are owned by civil servants – ministers, permanent secretaries, directors, and accountants. The source of this wealth is not clear and certainly comes from corruption.
Government must, therefore, ensure every shilling collected is put to valuable use otherwise many Ugandans will not see value in meeting their tax obligation.