President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf says she wants stronger punishment against people that are not paying taxes, suggesting that the Liberia Revenue Authority looks at the law to withhold the salaries of all non – compliant officials including ministers, legislators and judges at the end of a month.
“And enforcement means there’s got to be a punishment for not paying taxes. And let’s look at the law … and say if all the government officials have not paid their taxes then they shouldn’t get paid at the end of the month. So by this time I expect our LRA to extend letter to every minister, every legislator, every judge, you have not paid your taxes”, Mrs. Sirleaf suggested Tuesday, 18 July.
While moderating a panel discussion at the National Revenue Symposium at the Monrovia City Hall on Tuesday, Mrs. Sirleaf commended the LRA’s sensitization of the people on the need to pay their taxes, but stressed that it is not enough on grounds that “we got to have enforcement”.
Mrs. Sirleaf complains that “we have a weak judicial system” and if tax fraudsters are taken to Court, the matter would go nowhere, thus urging the need to expose tax fraud.
She says the tax laws here are difficult to understand, pondering as to why in this time LD$5.00 is being paid for one acre of land as tax which creates a room for people to amass ten thousand acres of land.
But she says when the land rights law goes into effect, it will change such tax system to improve the tax laws here. Mrs. Sirleaf notes that many times it is said here “that we’re proud of the fact that we pay taxes’, but to the contrary, she says “the real truth is we don’t”. According to President Sirleaf, 142 percent of Liberia’s budget comes from outside from external resources, thus suggesting that until Liberia can make sure that it has domestic revenues to cover its own development agenda, “we’ll” not go anywhere.
The first panel discussion included former Rwandan Revenue Authority Commissioner Madam Mary Baine, ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia Mr. Babatunde Ajisomo, Representatives of UNDP Country Director, AfDB, House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay’s office staff Mr. Julius Caesar and Commercial Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan.
While thanking the LRA for undertaking the survey and working with the people on issues of taxes, Mrs. Sirlea however reminds Liberians that the external environment is changing, and the country will not find the kind of support that it has been getting.
“And this is why it’s important that we ensure that we begin to introduce things for ourselves, that we get our tax systems right so that we can be able to carry the burden”, she adds.
Making a presentation earlier on the LRA’s findings from regional dialogue, Commissioner General Madam Elfreda Stewart Tamba reported that a lot of people have said they are not paying taxes due to lack of development, too much corruption, lack of awareness and lack of LRA offices in some communities.
She says locals are also holding a perception that government officials might not be paying their lawful taxes, particularly for real estate, while also complaining about the lack of police in their communities.
Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara says the development of Liberia, the attainment of the goals that are set in terms of becoming a middle income country rest on the people, noting that it must come through the efforts of making sure that the revenues generated domestically have to be in the lead.
ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia Mr. Babatunde Ajisomo says the issue of taxation involves everyone, and stressed that the role of government is very critical in that light.