Local authorities including city mayors, commissioners and community chairpersons in Montserrado County have assured the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) of their support to engage property owners to honor their tax obligations to the national government.
“Collaborating with communities for resource mobilization in the domestic tax sector cannot be understated. Every Liberian has to comply with the activity for nation building,” said Brewerville Mayor George Varney Curtis. “We all have to bury our differences to collaborate for the good of the country.”
Bentol City Mayor Christine Tolbert Norman said she supports the project and will work in line with the LRA to identify property owners to ensure that they pay taxes owed to the government.
Another local official, Development Superintendent Sylvester Lamah, said, “Our commitment to the domestic resource mobilization project is manifested by the presence of the local government officials you see here. We are fully committed to the partnership and will work with you.”
The local officials spoke at the occasion marking the official launch of the LRA Real Estate Community Partnership Project at the Monrovia City Hall on March 27, 2017.
Giving an overview of the project, LRA Commissioner General (CG) Elfrieda Stewart Tamba said, “I’m elated that after one and a half years of collaborative work on this Montserrado partnership project, we’ve finally been able to reach an understanding. Today the partnership has been launched.”
She said the community partnership project for domestic resource mobilization in Montserrado County is aimed at broadening the real property tax base through robust taxpayer awareness, education and outreach.
“It also has to do with stakeholder engagements, which include ‘Jehovah Witness’ tax engagements and community driven partnerships,” she added.
The ultimate goal of the project, according to the CG, is to increase lawful revenue largely from voluntary compliance and to also ensure that taxpayers pay their fair share through grassroots community engagements nationwide.
She said in order to implement the community engagement project effectively and efficiently, LRA has recruited, tested, trained and contracted 209 young men and women to cover the 17 electoral districts and one borough in Montserrado County.
These recruits, otherwise referred to as ‘Foot soldiers,’ are trained to collect data on property ownership and location and use GIS software, under instruction from their supervisors, on smart-phones to collect and store data for eventual downloading to the LRA platform.
“The training for the ‘Foot soldiers’ also covered how they deal with, approach and engage taxpayers in order to facilitate voluntary compliance,” added Commissioner Tamba.
To give taxpayers the hope of benefit, the CG said they will open up to them to compare revenue collection in a community with the level of development government carries out in that community.
She noted that through upgrading tax collection, government will be empowered to undertake more developments in the communities.
“It is estimated that this project and other revenue collection projects will mitigate the current gap in revenue leakages, strengthen citizens and residents’ awareness on their national responsibility to pay their fair share for nation building, which ‘Mama Liberia’ badly needs,” she added.
It may be recalled that during one of its meetings with local authorities a few months ago, Montserrado County Superintendent Florence Brandy said taxpayers will be encouraged to comply with payment if they were to receive tax returns.
In this regard, Mrs. Tamba said LRA will continue to dialogue with the Legislature on how to further the plan to eventually and hopefully implement a revenue sharing scheme.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Tamba has named the lack of a postal address system in Liberia as one of the challenges to revenue collection in the country.
“Reinforcing postal address system will bring a positive impact on the overall compliance and reduce the cost of noncompliance. We will partner with the Ministry of Post & Telecommunications to champion this cause which is currently a hindrance to effective and efficient mobilization of domestic resources in Liberia,” Commissioner Tamba said.