ZANZIBAR: ZANZIBAR government has vowed to take disciplinary and legal measures against government executives who collaborate with traders in evading tax, which is the basis of the national development.
President Hussein Mwinyi sounded the warning here on Friday during a meeting dubbed ‘Appreciation to Taxpayers’ Month’ in Zanzibar organised by Zanzibar Revenue Authority (ZARA).
He said tax evasion is an offence thus legal and disciplinary measures must be taken to executives who will be found to have been engaged in committing the crime.
Dr Mwinyi urged ZARA executives to abide by their work guidelines and know their duties which are supposed to be executed in line with abiding by ethics.
The Isles President said that in three years of his leadership, he has been impressed with the performance of ZARA which has undergone major transformation thus improving revenue collections.
“The government is impressed to a great extent with the changes in the operation of the authority which has done a great job within a short time,” he said.
The marking of the month also coincided with the official launch of the Zanzibar Integrated Domestic Revenue Administration System (ZIDRAS), replacing Zanzibar Integrated Tax Administration System (ZITAS) which was associated with numerous challenges.
ZIDRAS was introduced in April this year and at least 2,340 tax payers have been registered under the new convenient system ending the era of ZITAS which was used since 2012.
“I am happy with the development of the ZRA. You are doing wonders in tax collection. You deserve to be praised and further enhance your performance,” said Dr Mwinyi, promising to improve the welfare of ZRA staff, as he also directed the ministry responsible for finance to ensure the authority gets 100 per cent of its budget allocation.
He also expressed his happiness with increasing voluntary tax compliance, noting that the government will continue providing support to ZRA and the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to achieve its goals in revenue collection.
“Thank you ZRA and TRA for good work. Many projects, including construction of health facilities, schools and roads are being implemented because of your great work, but also voluntary tax payment by many people,” Dr Mwinyi said.
Dr Mwinyi reminded that tax is the backbone of any government in the world because the funds collected facilitate funding of various social and economic programmes.
“The government’s aim is to build a tax administration that will enable ZRA to collect the rightful revenue,” he said.
The Isles top leader said that the government’s ambition has been well translated by ZRA in the fourth strategic plan for the year 2021 to 2025, which aims at making the authority the best tax management institution in Africa while having strong foundations and ability to increase revenue collections.
“Voluntary tax payment, providing better services, increasing creativity in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and building the capacity of its employees is among the priorities in the strategic plan,” he said.
He assured the taxpayers that the government is ready to listen to them on the issue of tax rates and to ensure that ZRA operates under tax systems, with justice to all taxpayers.
“We want to reform ZRA to perform better and become a model for revenue collectors in this region, Africa and the world in general,” he said.
Commenting on the newly introduced ‘Taxpayers Appreciation Day’, he said it is a good idea which many tax collection institutions in the world have been doing.
He also praised the efforts by the authority to establish new offices/centres in Unguja and Pemba regions to facilitate tax payment and solve challenges of taxpayers in those regions, ending bureaucracy.
The Commissioner General of ZRA, Yussuph Juma Mwenda informed the gathering which included members of the business community that the admirable performance is attributed to advice from President Mwinyi and the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Mwenda said “When ZRB which is now ZRA was established in 1998, the annual collection was 12bn/-. But in 2021, the collection was 374bn/- and last year (2022) the collection was more than 565bn/-. This has also improved the economic growth of Zanzibar.”
He said reforms include use of electronic systems such as – Virtual Fiscal Management System (VFMS) for issuing and receiving electronic receipts, public awareness on the importance of paying tax initiated by Dr Mwinyi, and reforms in handling the money.
The Minister of State – President’s Office, Finance and Planning, Dr Saada Mkuya Salum said her ministry and the ZRA have collaborated in making operational improvements, leading to improvements in revenue collection.
She asked all leaders at all levels to continue cooperating in educating the public on the importance of voluntary paying taxes, and citizens to demand electronic receipts to enable the government to get revenue.