Customs bodies urged to increase tax base

By Eronie Kamukama

The secretary general of the World Customs Organisation Kunio Mikuriya has asked Uganda and other African tax bodies to expand their tax base to help propel economic growth.
He was speaking last week during the fourth World Customs Organisation Global Authorised Economic Operator conference 2018 in Kampala.
Mikuriya said there is a huge potential for Africa, especially in terms of economic growth, noting that it is critical for customs authorities to help businesses grow through connectivity.

“African political leaders have been providing many policy and legal frameworks to support development of the African market. Those policies require implementation … to ensure that they jointly contribute towards improving economic competitiveness of the country,” he said.
Commenting on what was necessary for customs to facilitate trade, Mikuriya said customs needs to identify more compliant traders who have raised the standards of customs and business.
“Both customs and businesses are viable. They should try to understand each other … In that way, they can facilitate trade and enhance security because security and safety are conditions for economic development,” he added.

Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) authorised economic operator programme appears to be working almost 10 years after implementation.
The Authorised Economic Operator programme encompasses a special group of people or companies that enjoy certain preferential treatment or privileges as a result of their compliance profile, according to Doris Akol, the URA commissioner general.
Uganda is the forth country to host the Authorised Economic Operator conference after South Korea in 2011, Spain in 2013 and Mexico in 2015.
More than 1,000 delegates from 169 countries, including representatives from customs administration, business community in customs, civil society and government gathered to discuss successes and challenges that customs administration and private sector face in implementing the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programme.

Improving compliance
Akol said the conference should create desire for those that are not yet on the programme to improve compliance profile because the programme would improve URA’s ability to collect revenue efficiently.
“They (Authorised Economic Operator ) enjoy shorter turnaround times, are able to have higher turnover and this enables them to do more business, supply customers faster and bring in goods at a quicker pace.,” she said.
Customs in Uganda has been making huge progress in terms of customs mobilisation, according to WCO.

While some importers have all their goods scanned, about 51 companies are currently not subjected to checks by customs office having met the AEO standards since they were adopted in 2005.
Years after grappling with a slow uptake due to lack of appreciation within the business community and URA customs staff, Authorised Economic Operator contribute 28 per cent of customs revenue.
With about 70 per cent of cargo going through the borders unexamined due to an improvement in compliance.

Dicksons Kateshumbwa, the URA commissioner for customs encouraged smaller companies to become more compliant in meeting their tax obligations.
He dismissed claims that the Authorised Economic Operator programme acts as an avenue for illegal trade.
“We are trying to follow international standards because if we do not, when we sign mutual agreements with other countries, they will say our process was dilute and cannot be trusted. We do monitoring and keep engaging these companies,” he said.
Following the conference, the private sector wants URA to remove the requirement for a bond on Authorised Economic Operator programmes.

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