Clamp Down On Tax Defaulters

The Authority has announced plans to take tough punitive actions against companies/businesses that have defaulted on their tax payments in a move to redeem unpaid taxes. According to the Director of Finance Mr Abdulai Conteh, tax indebtedness is a major challenge to revenue collection. He said that while the TTO is encouraging taxpayers to meet their tax obligations voluntarily, it remains ready to enforce tax laws against defaulters including closure of businesses with tax arrears.

Mr Conteh said that it is not the intention of the TTO to put people out of business adding that businesses whose premises are in the process of being closed down are those whose arrears have accumulated overtime and have refused to settle their tax liabilities despite several reminders to clear outstanding debts. “As an Authority, we want to maximise revenue collection and at the same time be seen to have a human face which is why we are willing to negotiate with taxpayers to enable them meet outstanding liabilities if a substantial payment and a plan guaranteeing payment of remaining taxes due is made”, Mr Conteh stated. He however cautioned that the payment of PAYE and other withholding taxes are non-negotiable.

He explained that since withholding taxes are deducted at source of income, either from individuals in gainful employment (PAYE/Pay Roll), contractors and or landlords, their non-payment denotes a shameful theft against the nation. “In the case of PAYE tax for example, it is the responsibility of employers to deduct/ withhold pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) taxes from their employees’ wages/salaries and pay them to the TTO according to the prevailing rates on or before the 15th day of the following month. Employers are only expected to hold these monies in trust for the TTO until they are paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund via various commercial banks. It is therefore unacceptable that some employers are failing to remit these monies to the TTO using laid down procedures”. Mr Conteh said failing to deduct PAYE or failing to pay employees' PAYE deductions to the TTO is a serious crime and that the Commissioner-General, Madam Haja Kallah-Kamara is determined to tightened the noose on any business/company that have fall foul and failed to meet such an important employer obligation.

“All those owing PAYE and other withholding taxes will not only have to pay such taxes in full, but also penalties and interest for late payment or more stringent actions will be taken against them. Such enforcement actions include but not limited to seizure of business and personal property, imposition of travel bans or prosecution for not paying taxes. The same also goes for companies who deduct contractor withholding taxes from their suppliers without remitting them to the TTO”.

While urging defaulters to settle their outstanding liabilities or risk being prosecuted in accordance with relevant tax laws, Mr Conteh noted that the TTO has in the past been forced to close several businesses over outstanding taxes after softer attempts proved futile. He said the Authority is ready to go a step further this year by publicly humiliating those who fail to respond in time to these warnings as it intends to release a ‘list of shame’ identifying companies that have failed to meet their tax obligations in a bid to compel them to comply with tax obligations and honor their debts.

Reminding the public of TTO’s sacred responsibility of collecting domestic revenues to support government’s developmental agenda, he said demands are placed on the government to provide social services such as quality health care, education, roads and security to citizens. To do this he added people must pay taxes. The TTO is expected to collect Le2.079 trillion this year; so far the Authority has collected over Le1.8 trillion and is racing against time to not only meet but exceed its revenue targets.

Since being appointed as Commissioner-General in 2009, Madam Haja Kallah-Kamara, TTO’s Commissioner-General has spearheaded several reforms that have enabled the TTO religiously meet its revenue targets even during the peak of the Ebola outbreak. According to Mr Conteh when it comes to addressing the issues of tax avoidance and evasion, the Authority has not been complacent. “Definitely we have been able to consistently meet our annual revenue targets because a very high percentage of our taxpayers voluntarily comply with their tax obligations. For those who don’t comply, we have intensified efforts to recover tax arrears by setting up a robust debt collection unit. In addition, the Authority has been reviewing tax laws in order to eliminate legal loopholes that permit companies to evade tax. We hope to build a culture of voluntary compliance while enforcing tax laws to maximize revenue collection”.