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African experts mull scientific measures to increase tax compliance  

KAMPALA (Xinhua) -- More than 18 African tax administrators under the African Tax Forum (ATAF) are meeting in Uganda to discuss the integration of science and technology in tax administration.  

During the five-day meeting which opened on Monday under the theme, The Evolution of Science in Tax Administration, the experts will also study how Uganda has been able to integrate science in enhancing tax compliance.   

Mary Baine, ATAF director of tax programs, said Uganda’s integration of science in tax administration could potentially be a major breakthrough in revenue mobilization in Africa, as the continent seeks new ways to increase revenue for development.  

Baine said the new system could also help the African continent fight illicit financial flows, from which it is estimated that Africa loses more than 50 billion U.S. dollars annually.  

“With this, we can now assess tax based on facts, and also know what is illegally being taken out of our jurisdictions,” she said.  

She said the scientific system could be a vital component of tax administration because it enables the tax man to determine key properties of various goods to establish their true tax value.

“Instead of chasing the chain of production, empirical data will then provide the tax administrators with the tools and information to assess taxes,” she said.  

Patrick Mukiibi, acting commissioner general of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Uganda’s tax body, said the east African country integrated science in tax administration over an eight-year period after realizing that it could help collect more taxes effectively.  

“After realizing that science and technology are revolutionizing the way things are being done all over the world, we worked hard and introduced systems like Ascuda world to help improve domestic tax collection,” Mukiibi said.  

He said URA will rely on science and technology to optimize tax collection, compliance, resource utilization and service delivery over the next decade. 

“URA wants to make it easy and convenient for everyone to comply on their taxes, and as such we are keen on improving service delivery using science and technology,” he said.

He said the tax body has invested in building analytical and forensic science systems and laboratories to enhance tax compliance based on empirical facts.  

He said using forensic interrogations; the tax man will be able to examine financial statements to determine authenticity and omissions of data intended to manipulate tax assessment.  

 “When we interrogate the financial statement, we shall be able to tell the difference between inputs and outputs to determine what tax the manufactures should pay. We are also introducing digital tax stamps, where by as the products fall off the production line, they get a stamp to authenticate them, but also to differentiate them from the counterfeits,” Mukiibi said.

Mukiibi said new science based system also help the tax collectors to identify items deemed not fit for human consumption and stop their importation, as well as fight illicit financial flows.

“If we get access to our suspected clients’ electronic transactions, we can be able to know how much was wired out of the country, and compare it to what was declared for consistency. If we also get access to their documents, either remotely or not, we can establish what is concealed and from this establish what we could have lost in taxes,” he said.

Patrick Bitature, chairman of Private Sector Foundation, said URA’s scientific innovation is timely because it will level the playing ground for entities in the private sector.  

“We have entities that are not fully disclosing their taxable revenue and as such are paying less to the government coffers. This will weed them out,” Bitature said.  

He said a boost in government collections will improve the work environment for private sector players through better electricity supply, water, schools, hospitals and roads.  

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