Isaac Aijuka, a staff of the Tax Education Unit of Uganda Revenue Authority, has called on taxpayers to take advantage of the temporary waiver before it expires at the end of this year.
Government put up a waiver on penalties and interest for tax non-compliance from July 1 to December 31, 2023.
“Tell people not to keep reading our messages and ignoring them. The systems will catch up with them, even many years after today. Even if you feel that the principal we are demanding is too much for you to pay, come and we agree on a payment plan,” he advised.
Aijuka was conducting a URA business clinic breakaway session of the Uganda Entrepreneurship Congress in Yusuf Lule CTF building, Makerere University on November 16, 2023. URA uses a self-assessment regime, which allows taxpayers to assess themselves and make voluntary filing of returns to URA.
He stressed that businesspeople should have the discipline of keeping business records for many years. Short of regular returns filing or in case of suspicious indicators in one’s filing, URA comes in and makes an audit and mandatory assessment of the business, whether you have records or not. The law allows URA to audit five years backwards.
“On top of the principal tax we assess, we put a penalty and charge interest on the two,” Aijuka clarified.
He, however, mentioned that URA doesn’t have the final word; one has the right to appeal/object to the assessment and penalty. He touched on several topics, including benefits of voluntary disclosure, effects of tax evasion, how to become a tax agent, revenue taxes and non-revenue taxes, principles of taxation, and economic independence, among others.
He argued that for a country to be truly independent, it should be able to finance its budget using the taxes it collects, which is still a challenge for Uganda. He explained URA’s mission as encouraging voluntary compliance and improving tax collection. URA collects taxes and hands them over to the ministry of Finance and Parliament to appropriate.
“We never collect taxes not set up by parliament. Each year, parliament gives us targets to achieve; for example, for FY 2023/24, parliament expects us to collect Shs 29.7 trillion for the national budget of Shs 52.7 trillion,” he said.
He added that not everyone is supposed to pay income tax or Pay as You Earn in the case of employment income; one must be earning Shs 10 million and above per annum to qualify. Aijuka disclosed that the filing template has been further simplified so that an average taxpayer guided once can thereafter fill it themselves.
“You can even come to any URA office and we will give you an officer to do the filing for you free of charge,” he assured.
He encouraged students to join tax societies, which are in various universities, to gain knowledge and also get spotted for jobs. He said URA started Vita (Voluntary Income Tax Assistants) training programme in universities last year, with the primary aim to disseminate basic tax knowledge and practical skills in registration, return filing, payment processes and the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing System (EFRIS), among others.
He said Vita will later be spread to the wider public. He urged the public to visit and navigate the URA website to gain a lot of useful knowledge.