Efforts by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service to swoop on tax defaulters and evaders are highly commendable.
This is especially so given the importance of tax revenue to Botswana’s economy which is still reeling from the effects of the global economic recession.
The bold move by BURS, coming at a time when we are struggling with reducing the country’s budget deficit and striving to balance the budget by the next financial year is a welcome development.
In fact, BURS should never lose steam in hunting down and netting tax defaulters. This should not just be a once off event but a continuous process geared at improving the country’s total revenues.
Simply put, BURS should spare no efforts in its tax collection drive – after all, that is what it was created for. Tax collection is its mandate.┬á
In his 2011 budget speech, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo noted that total revenues and grants in 2009/10 amounted to P30 billion which was higher than the estimated P27.78 billion in the revised estimates and represented a net increase of P2.24 billion or 8.07 percent.
The minister attributed the additional revenue to the recovery of the diamond market with mineral revenue accounting for the highest increase of P2.25 billion or 33 percent followed by VAT with an increase of P256 million or seven percent┬á due to growth in consumption and of goods and services and improved collection by BURS.
The importance of tax revenues to the economy needs not be over emphasized. In the past financial year, the revenue service collected P20 billion. The accruing funds are used for developing the country’s infrastructure as well as creating social nets for the many Batswana who cannot fend for themselves.
While we applaud BURS in efforts to collect taxes, we in the same vein implore the agency to intensify its public education campaign because we are inclined to believe there are many people and companies out there who may not be paying their taxes out of ignorance.
In its efforts to collect the taxes, BURS should also ensure that it is not only running after a few select individuals leaving in its trail the big companies that are not discharging their tax obligations.
Of late we have seen the agency closing in on foreign nationals and their companies. This makes us wonder whether there are no Batswana and their companies who are evading tax. The concerted tax collection drive should cut across the political and national divide. The exercise should not be selective. It must target each and every company and individuals who are evading or defaulting in the remittance of the applicable taxes.
There is absolutely no reason why companies and individuals should not be discharging their tax obligations. If it means prosecuting defaulters and evaders, so be it. BURS should send stern warning and move the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to prosecute defaulters and evaders.
This country desperately needs the tax revenues for its economic development. We should never allow a situation where companies and individuals deliberately ignore their tax obligations while they continue to enjoy services rendered by the state.
We are aware that there are many brief case companies which may not be paying tax in this country.
BURS should hunt down these culprits and make them pay. We are also aware that there are foreigners who have joined the informal sector and it is our sincere suspicion that they may be evading the tax man one way or the other.
It has also come to our attention that there are some Batswana who are aiding and abetting foreigners in the tax evasion scam. We just hope the long arm of the law will soon smoke them out.