By: Joaquin M. Sendolo in Johannesburg, South Africa
The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) and several African journalists have begun an engagement workshop wherein ATAF tax experts will explain related duties, procedures and responsibilities of tax authorities in order to give a clear enough picture to journalists to report effectively on tax and its benefits to a country.
The forum is the first of its kind with journalists since ATAF was launched in 2008.
This event, according to ATAF officials, including Thulani Shongwe and Frankie Mbuyamba, stresses the significance of the media’s role in propagating messages about taxes so that citizens will know their responsibilities to the state.
During the first exchanges on March 26 in Johannesburg, South Africa, ATAF’s experts shared some challenges confronting the collection of lawful taxes, with corruption, drug trafficking, tax avoidance and evasion being major among the challenges.
In a series of deliberations, presenters explained that outdated legislation and lack of coordination between tax policy and administration underpin those challenges facing tax authorities.
Quoting former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s publication on illicit financial flows in Africa, ATAF Executives said US$1.4 trillion has reportedly gone out of Africa just from tax evasion and avoidance over the last 30 years.
Reacting to the issues raised, journalists themselves described the complicated processes associated with getting information from tax authorities and difficulties in understanding tax jargon.
Journalists expressing diverse views said in some instances revenue authorities, because of confidentiality, shrink from providing information to journalists.
Another journalist participating in a panel discussion said funding for journalists is a major problem, arguing that giving of grants to do investigative pieces will enhance their work in reporting on tax.
Three Liberian journalists including the author, Joaquin M. Sendolo, Lennart Dodoo of Frontpage Africa and David A. Yates, along with D. Kahenneh Sengbe of the Liberia Revenue Authority are attending the ATAF Media Engagement Workshop.