‘No Free Lunch: Paying Tax a Statutory Duty’

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Finance Minister Amara Konneh tells taxpayers to pay their taxes _web.jpg

Finance Minister Amara Konneh has underscored the importance of taxpayers paying taxes as he called on Liberians not to consider the process of paying taxes as an act of charity or kindness, but rather a statutory duty to build their country.

Speaking at the induction ceremony of the leadership of the Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners (LITP) at the Executive Pavilion on Saturday, February 8, Konneh told the public that there is no free development, nor free infrastructure.

“In economics, we say that there is no free lunch. You may not pay for the lunch by yourself, but somebody else has to pay for it. For Liberia, there is no free development; no free running water; no free electricity; no free education or healthcare; there is no free peace and security. The money to pay school teachers, doctors and nurses, engineers and bus drivers, police and military officers, comes from somewhere—either you or the taxes you pay. Even if prenatal and infant medical care is free for the patients, the resources to fund them come from the national budget, which is reliant on revenue generated from taxes, loans or grants from our development partners,” he said.

Minister Konneh said he is of the belief that Liberians who willingly fulfill the duty of paying taxes have a deep understanding that they are, in fact, contributing to something bigger than themselves –- “the building of a great nation.’’ In his keynote address, Konneh observed that taxation is not just government withholding hard-earned money from citizens or businesses, but that it is an opportunity for citizens to invest in building the kind of society in which they want to live. According to the Liberian treasury boss, paying taxes is also a chance for each business entity to invest in growing the kind of economy in which they want to operate now and in the future.

“While it is true that people are still trying to rebuild confidence in the government’s public financial management reform process, paying their taxes is not just about capturing revenue or building roads and bridges or laying electricity transmission lines, or building a hydro. It is about being able to look at our children and grandchildren, and being able to say that, when we had the chance, we laid the foundation to make them healthy, happy, and prosperous, Minister Konneh said.”

The Finance Minister asserted that the government of Liberia is making strides to provide quality services to the Liberian people, enhance government’s capacity to govern the country efficiently and effectively, and strengthen its mechanisms to manage public funds transparently. He warned that with shortages in revenue — which is due to limited commitment by citizens and firms to pay taxes — this trend is expected to continue, if Liberians do not change that behavior.

“Failure to pay our taxes leads to a high debt ceiling even if loans for high yield investments are highly concessional,” he explained. The Finance Minister observed that with a high debt ceiling, the country would be subjected to conditionality from development partners that allow it limited flexibility to take what he called “the unorthodox policy decisions that we know can lead to real and rapid development.” According to Minister Konneh, the result of such conditionality would be “the dissatisfaction and the restlessness of a people who are anxious to see concrete signs that government is fulfilling its promise to them.”

The Treasury Chief cautioned taxpayers that they have a clear choice of whether or not to pay taxes. “And each person’s and each company’s choice has consequences that we will all have to live with for decades to come. That is why the LITP’s role is so critical. Tax practitioners are nation builders in their own right, because they encourage and support citizens, residents and businesses to contribute their rightful share to our development effort.”

Minister Konneh disclosed that the Government of Liberia, through its Tax Payer Services Unit at the Ministry of Finance, has been very vigorous educating taxpayers and the general public on tax information. “The LITP complements these initiatives and will provide invaluable support to us in our revenue mobilization efforts,” the Minister stated. He welcomed the newly established Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners and pledged government’s fullest support to the body in ensuring that their objectives are achieved.

The Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners was established by a group of Liberian professionals working on tax issues through the instrumentality of the Ministry of Finance. The LITP serves as the sole body for the certification of Tax professionals in the country by promoting the advancement of the taxation profession, administering examinations and certifying qualified persons. The mission of the Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners is to create equity in Liberia taxation through the provision of quality professional tax education. Those inducted to lead the LITP included Theophilus D. Joseph, president; Atty. R. Macdonald Garnett, vice president; and Mrs. Juanita Bropleh, Treasurer.

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