On April 12, 2018 President George Weah launched the Mobile Tax Payment system, introduced by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA). The newly-introduced mobile tax payment system is meant to make tax payment easier for taxpayers, especially small and medium taxpayers.
It affords them the ability to remain wherever they are to comply with their national duty without the burden of standing hours in long queues to pay their taxes. “People do not want to give out their money, and this is clear without doubt even if I were not a member of the LRA. They will therefore want to escape this obligation,” LRA Deputy Commissioner for Technical Services, Decontee King-Sackie said.
The mobile tax payment system, according to Mrs. Sackie, is meant to create the means to avoid all excuses that would influence noncompliance. During the launch at the Monrovia City Hall, President Weah, who performed the task of Chief Launcher, used the system to pay his tax, calling on all taxpayers to follow suit.
Also pleasing to the ears of revenue authorities was President Weah’s statement, “We want development and there is money in the country, but not paid in taxes to government. Therefore, pay your taxes to develop our country.” Paying taxes is a national duty for all well-meaning citizens and residents living in the territorial confines of Liberia.
Failing to comply is by law an offense against the nation. This is a duty, which Jesus Christ reminds us of in the Bible when he said, in response to questions bordering on payment of taxes to Rome, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Nevertheless, taxpayers too, having fulfilled their duty to the nation by paying their lawful taxes, expect that their taxes will be put to good use, such as developing the country.
Liberians and foreign residents have been paying taxes; yet access to good roads even in the city of Monrovia remains a problem. Roads leading to the rest of the rural parts of the country lie in deplorable conditions. Electricity is still scarce such that the majority of taxpayers have no access to it. In fact, in many instances, they have to pay bribes in order to have services extended to them.
Having operated for 12 unbroken years, taxpayers are yet to enjoy running water from the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), although tax payers are obliged to pay what is called sales tax excluding water and sewer bills. Millions of dollars are generated from ports of entry including the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and the James Spriggs Payne airport.
Yet these ports of entry remain in deplorable conditions, which convey the distinct impression of a nation left far behind. What a shame, for example, to have a narrow access road without lights leading to an international airport that generates revenue from customs duties.
What would have happened if the Chinese had not intervened to erect a new airport terminal? Instead of tax being collected to meet the development needs of the country as should rightly be, it ends up as huge salaries and the purchase of luxury vehicles for government officials.
In the face of this, most civil servants, like the police, for example, go underpaid, thus resulting into constant harassment of commercial drivers who are also taxpayers. Perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that huge amounts are paid annually to landlords for lease of properties to serve as government offices.
Accordingly, the Liberian Government continues to remain a tenant in its own home. Monrovia as the largest city in the country stands out as one of the filthiest cities on the African continent without even public toilet facilities to serve a huge population.
This particular situation causes people, especially men, to stand everywhere in the city to urinate without regard for sanitation or decency.
Yes, Mr. President! It is good that people pay their taxes and follow your foot-steps in using the mobile tax payment to pay their taxes so that government will be able to meet its development agenda. However, the challenge is also yours to convince the taxpayers that you are prepared to use the people’s money for its intended purpose.
How can they be convinced?
They can be convinced by seeing the development that the money is intended for; good educational facilities, good roads, good health facilities, clean cities, electricity, running water, attractive salaries especially for teachers, nurses, doctors and state security, just to name a few.
If Liberians and others would be convinced to comply with tax payment, then fight corruption vigorously, forego the purchase of expensive vehicles for your top officials, reduce gasoline slips and scratch cards for public officials, and ensure that senior officials of the three branches of government pay taxes.
Last but not least is the issue of double taxation, which tax payers are experiencing in clearing goods from the Free Port of Monrovia. Importers have to pay inspection fees including duty assessed by BIVAC. The LRA cannot therefore justifiably claim that Customs officers are doing destination inspection of containers because importers are under declaring their cargo.
The Liberian government has a standing agreement with the Bureaux Veritas (BIVAC) to conduct pre-shipment inspection of all goods destined for Liberia. If merchants/importers are under-declaring their cargo, the LRA should hold the BIVAC responsible by virtue of its contractual obligations to the Government of Liberia. In other words, if BIVAC is not living up to the terms of the agreement, then the agreement should be annulled in the interest of poor, suffering Liberians who are bearing the brunt of the tax burden.