It took no less a personality than the President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to remind Liberians that they do not pay taxes. The President puts it bluntly when she acknowledges that the country’s poor tax compliance culture is a major impediment to achieving the national development agenda.
Madam Sirleaf discloses that about 142 percent support to the national budget comes from external sources as compared to the domestic flow of the revenue needed to support Liberia’s infrastructural development agenda.
Moderating a day-long panel discussion during a National Revenue Symposium held Tuesday, 18 July at the Monrovia City Hall on the theme, “Domestic Revenue Mobilization” President Sirleaf specifically challenges the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to go all out in making sure government officials, including assistant ministers, deputy ministers, as well as heads of autonomous agencies and public corporations, the Legislature and the Judiciary pay all taxes owed the government.
It is regrettable that all those the President mentioned are officials with earning powers, who are refusing to give back to the country that feeds them bread. We dare say this is a very wrong example to set in leadership.
We agree with the President that salaries of officials with tax arrears should be frozen until they can meet up with their tax obligations. We believe that such stringent mandate would ensure compliance.
Though the President did not give any specific figure as regards how much this country is losing out to non-taxpayers, we may surmise that it could be in millions of dollars! Yet still, those robbing the country of its taxes, receive monthly salaries from what little amount the LRA collects from the faithful few taxpayers, including both business institutions and individuals who were honored recently in Monrovia for their commitment to payment. We say hats off to LoneStar Cell MTN and Mr. David Kortee, among others, who were honored at the Taxpayers Day for demonstrating good business practice and responsible citizenship.
All Liberians should be reminded that no amount of external support can develop this country without us paying our legitimate taxes to the state. And, as the President told the symposium, the environment for continuous external support is changing and such support may not continue. “So, that is why we should start paying our taxes,” she emphasizes.
However, while we stress the need to pay taxes, we call on the government to review its current policy of awarding tax holidays to some business institutions up to 15 years or more, under the pretext of promoting friendly business environment. Least we rethink properly on this policy; we could be shooting ourselves in the leg as a nation recuperating from years of violent devastation.
A 15-year tax holidays under any regime that serves two terms in office are enough periods for any crook investor to enjoy after which he or she may consider whether to pull out of Liberia with all profits or stay to continue investing. A hint to the wise is sufficient…