All Heads of East African Revenue Authorities (EARA) will be camping at the Club Dulac Hotel in Bujumbura, Burundi from 30 – 31 January, 2020 for the biannual Commissioners’ General forum. Mr. Audace Niyonzima, Burundi’s revenue agency, Office Burundais des Recettes (OBR) Commissioner General will host his EAC peers for and experience and accountability-laden 47th engagement as the regional agencies hold discussions and deliberate on decisions that will drive cooperation in revenue administration.
Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner General (CG), Mr. Githii Mburu will be leading a high-level delegation of senior staff to the meeting (including Commissioner for Domestic Taxes, Mrs. Elizabeth Meyo, Commissioner for Legal Services & Board Coordination, Mr. Paul M. Matuku, Deputy Commissioner for Investigations & Enforcement, Dr. Edward Karanja, Head of Customs Policy, Mrs. Pamela Ahago, and the Norther Regional Coordinator Mrs. Charity Giteru among other senior staff). This will be Mr. Mburu’s first interaction with the other agency heads since his appointment as Commissioner General, and is expected to renew Kenya’s commitment to regional tax diplomacy through the forum.
Key highlights in the meeting will include sharing of sister agencies’ experiences in addressing common challenges affecting tax administrations and progress made with implementing Commissioners’ General directives drawn from the 46th forum held in July in Zanzibar. The Zanzibar meeting, hosted by Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Commissioner General, Dr. Edwin Mhede, reported positive growth year-on-year, ranging from 2% to 15% for the year ended 30th June, 2019 with KRA recording 10% revenue growth. However, the CGs also took no chance in directing for fast-tracking of resolution of key pain points.
In the Communique ratified by the CGs, the Revenue Agencies agreed to jointly establish strategies to address smuggling by leveraging on technology; invest in a common and dynamic valuation system and increase efficiency of warehousing. Other commitments made also included addressing VAT administration efficiency by exploring the implementation of Electronic Billing System (EBM) across the Region, and effectively approaching criminal tax investigation by developing and implementing standard guidelines to conduct, train and use tax inspectors beyond borders, reduce ICT costs among others. Also of key notice was the directive that all revenue agencies prioritize aggressive publicity of prosecution of tax evasion, extending media attention in the wider region to deter tax malpractices in any of the EAC partner states. Agencies were also challenged to liaise with the Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) to explore new approaches of taxing multinational enterprises considering the interests, challenges, and opportunities of developing countries.
KRA has since made commendable progress in implementing these commitments: Draft proposals have been developed for inclusion in the Income Tax Bill to enable utility of information from commodity exchange markets to establish and apply prices for transfer pricing; KRA is actively participating in preparation of joint curriculum for tax investigators; Media publicity on tax fraud prosecutions has been expanded; and draft proposals on strategies for reducing high ICT costs have been developed and presented for management consideration and adoption.
KRA, as Chair of the Information Technology & Communication Working Committee, will be making a presentation on the Single Customs Territory ICT Incident & Change Management Guide – Operational Changes & Recommendation at the meeting. This will be an area of interest given the critical attention CGs accord ICT in transforming regional customs operations. KRA will also be keen to present its proposals on utilization of drone technology to curb smuggling and address illicit trade; and share its plans for linking the iCMS with the EAC Valuation System.
KRA will arrive in Bujumbura with promise and optimism, while also looking forward to tackling tax administration challenges presented by a dynamic economic block like the EAC.
By: Andrew Osiany & Loice Akello
International Relations & Diplomacy