By John R. Musinguzi
I thank the Lord who has kept each one of us alive to this day. As we come to the end of this year, I extend my appreciation to you all for your continuous efforts to develop our country by honouring your tax obligations. Because of this resilience and commitment, you have enabled the Government to continue providing critical services amid the economic hardships caused by the impact of the Covid19 pandemic. This is the highest form of demonstrating individual integrity and personal responsibility as a fully committed citizen to seeing Uganda prosper.
Much as we are currently contributing only 50% towards our national budget, I am optimistic that as we continue working together, we shall achieve our national aspiration of attaining economic independence where our national expenditure will be fully funded domestically.
One of the key lessons we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we must be self-reliant. Our hope of getting external support is dwindling because every nation is focusing on themselves, and as Ugandans, we must also find ways of mobilizing our resources internally. To raise this revenue as a country, we must do much more than what we are doing today.
Our current tax to GDP ratio is 13%, below the average 16% of Sub-Saharan Africa. This has placed us in a position where we must turn to external borrowing, which often comes with unfavorable terms and conditions. Developed countries collect more than 30% of their tax to GDP. Research has shown that for any country to develop, it has to collect at the very least 20% of its GDP, and we, at URA, have purposed to double ours in our quest for development. We are convinced that it is possible.
Unregistered traders and undeclared employment dominate our economy. The current tax register has about 1.9 million taxpayers out of a population of 45 million Ugandans. There are over 7 million people engaged in income-generating activities that qualify to contribute to the tax basket. This offers a significant opportunity to find ways to bring them into the tax net to contribute to the development of our country.
We must remind ourselves that Uganda’s prosperity rests upon the shoulders of all eligible citizens and key economic players contributing to the national revenue basket rather than just a limited few bearing the responsibility.
As URA, we have adopted a new way of working on our part. We have resolved to be honest, transparent, fair, and focused on building goodwill for the benefit of all Ugandans. Accordingly, we have redefined our mission and vision, guided by the core values of patriotism, integrity, and professionalism.
Our new mission is to “Mobilize Revenue for National Development in a Transparent and Efficient Manner”.
Therefore, we are reviewing our internal processes and deliberately building synergies with all stakeholders to enable us to make a real positive change.
We have purposed to become better business enablers by adopting a more listening approach towards tax administration by coming up with fitting solutions to ease tax compliance.
Lastly, I wish to remind all of us to be mindful of the potential spread of Covid19 during the festive season. Continue to guard yourself and your loved ones at all times by ensuring that you are vaccinated and by upholding the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), these two measures have proven to be effective weapons against the pandemic.
I wish you all a happy festive season, and may the peace and joy of Christmas be with you and your families. I also wish you a blessed 2022.
For God and My Country.
The writer is the Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA)