The Third International Conference on Tax in Africa took place from the 27th to 29th of September, a biannual event which was held in Abuja, Nigeria. At this 3-day flagship conference of the African Tax Administration over 38 members of African revenue authorities and tax experts from all over the world deliberated on "Building Strong Domestic Tax Regimes in Africa: Strengthening VAT, PIT And CIT".
Nigerian Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo opened the conference. He stated that for the African Union to reach its Agenda 2063 objectives, it must review some of its tax laws to help build an integrated, prosperous, globally acclaimed and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens. That there is a need for inclusive growth and sustainable development as well as good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.
The continent is losing huge amounts of tax revenue in the form of illicit financial flows which is why tax administrators need to evolve a strong intra-African synergy to improve tax collection and disbursement. Referencing the Thabo Mbeki report on illicit financial flows, the vice-president estimated that revenue loss for developing countries was three times more than foreign aid received each year.
“The challenges range from poor domestic resources mobilization, differences between what is collected and what could have been collected, poor technology, tax exemption, tax evasion, tax avoidance, poor tax planning and transfer misplanning."
He called for increased transparency and information exchange as well as efforts to check Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting (BEPS). The former would require automatic information exchange as the new global standard for cooperation in tax matters and ending legal secrecy of ownership of companies and trusts, especially those based in tax havens.
The Nigerian Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, emphasized the strong link between a strong, robust and effective tax system and economic development: "“There is no rich country with a poor tax system and there is no poor country with a strong tax system. It tells you the connection. So, we need to develop a predictable and transparent tax administration that can guarantee efficient flow of revenue. We can do it."
The Executive Secretary of the African Tax Administration Forum, ATAF, Logan Wort, reiterated that inappropriate tax incentives were bad for revenue mobilisation. “The ATAF recognizes that some of the key reasons why Domestic Resource Mobilization is not optimized across the continent is due to a low savings rate that equals low economic activity, illicit financial flows, inappropriate use of tax incentives and exemptions and weak tax administrative systems and capacities.”
Mr. Tunde Fowler, who is the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Chairman of ATAF, said there is a need to improve tax systems and increase the accountability of States to their citizenry. DRM needs to be enhanced and over-reliance on foreign aid and the exploitation of natural resources for the purpose of funding a developmental agenda reduced. Member states of ATAF must strive to build and become leaders on African tax matters by way of efficient and effective tax administrations, and so improve the living standards of the people.