BAN ICDT Ends Tax For Development Conference By Mohamed Konneh

BAN ICDT Ends Tax For Development Conference

By Mohamed Konneh

The International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD) and the Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), in partnership with the National Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday 8th December 2022 concluded the Tax for Development conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.

Over 100 policymakers, researchers, members of civil society, and other stakeholders gather at the Radisson Blu in Freetown for the conference and made several presentations. 

The conference feature eight sessions with presentations of research and policy discussions on issues including taxing the informal sector, tax and equity, use of technology in tax administration, local government taxation in the provinces, and property taxation in Freetown. 

The ICTD is an independent research centre focused on improving tax policy and administration in lower-income countries. It has been conducting research in Sierra Leone for over a decade, with the first study published in 2013 co-authored by Dr. Wilson Prichard, now the ICTD’s Executive Director, and Dr. Samuel Jibao, now the Commissioner General of the NRA.

The Coordinator of BAN, Abu Bakarr Kamara, expresses thanks and appreciation to having such a conference in Sierra Leone noting that the conference was key toward the country taxation.

He said critical issues were discussed including tax revenue mobilization, informal taxation and many more. 

Mr. Kamara noted that in these hard times, it is important that the country engage so that the best policy options can be determined and implemented, and that this is done transparently so that taxpayers can hold the government accountable for how public revenue is raised and utilised. 

The ICTD Research Fellow Dr. Vanessa van den Boogaard, who has been conducting research with partners in Sierra Leone for over ten years said “With the 2023 budget in progress, and a real need for more revenue to deliver improvements in energy, healthcare, education, and other essential development objectives, was thrilled that opportunities was given to share their research results with key stakeholders. 

‘Although there has been good progress on tax collection in Sierra Leone, the current challenges make it even more important to sit down together and see how our evidence and insights can inform the policy agenda for the good of the country and citizens in Sierra Leone, she said.

In her presentation on informal taxation Dr. Vanessa noted that while research has historically focused on formal systems of taxation and user fees, there is mounting evidence of the importance of “informal” taxation for average taxpayers in much of Africa. 

She said in low-income and post-conflict countries, and particularly in rural areas, citizens often pay a range of ‘taxes’ that differ substantially from statutory policies. These ‘informal taxes’, paid to a variety of state and non-state actors, are frequently overlooked in analyses of local systems of taxation. 

Dr. Vanessa noted that this is problematic as it leads to misunderstandings of individual and household tax burdens, as well as of systems of local governance. 

‘This study thus seeks to capture the reality of taxation in peripheral areas of Sierra Leone. It is based on a taxpayer survey covering 1,129 heads of households, in-depth interviews with government and chiefdom officials, and focus group discussions with community stakeholders across three rural districts of Sierra Leone, she said.’

This first ever international tax conference ended with stakeholders pledging to work together and looking at more optional taxation in the country.

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