Mmegi Online :: BURS’ e-services at the mercy of Botswana poor Internet
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Friday 22 June 2018, 06:00 am.
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BURS’ e-services at the mercy of Botswana poor Internet

While the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) is looking to simplify the process of filing income tax returns by introducing e-services, taxpayers are likely to encounter problems due to the poor Internet connectivity in the country. Despite efforts by the government to improve Internet connectivity, many users have been suffering long-term from slow and expensive internet services.
By Isaac Pinielo Fri 09 Sep 2016, 14:55 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: BURS’ e-services at the mercy of Botswana poor Internet








BusinessWeek has learnt that a slow Internet connection continues to hound some taxpayers rushing to beat the deadline for the electronic filing of their income tax returns (ITRs) in the current filing season from July to end of September 2016.

With the BURS having given taxpayers until September 28 to file their ITRs electronically, some taxpayers complained that they cannot not submit their forms, citing poor or outright failure of connectivity.

“I have been trying to file my returns since the beginning of this week, but the connection keeps failing,” said one taxpayer who declined to be identified. Another taxpayer intimated that the BURS is always encountering problems with its internal Internet system which makes it difficult for people outside to file electronically. The tax agency representative said this could be partly due to the e-service still undergoing improvement, and cited a workaround procedure.

With about 690,000 Internet users representing 31.2% of the population plugged into the Internet as of June this year, Botswana is one of the countries in Africa whose number of Internet users has risen strongly in recent years. There have been previous attempts to make access cheaper and faster, with the most recent attempt being the deployment of FTTx fibre-optic networks to replace its legacy copper infrastructure by the government-owned and wholesale Internet provider, Botswana Fibre Networks Limited (BoFiNet).

It was indicated that the P150 million project would enable BoFiNet to provide faster and cheaper wholesale Internet connections to the country’s Internet service providers (ISPs), leading to an improved service for end users. However, observers believe that a higher quality and cheaper internet service will only be possible if the monopoly of state-owned companies in the market is broken, which BURS’ new e-services plan may depend on. The tax colleting agency has expressed confidence that the launch of the e-services platform would ease the way customers file returns and pay tax while promoting compliance.

E-services was first

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introduced and piloted in 2013 for the value added tax (VAT) paying customers only, which the BURS communication specialist, Refilwe Moonwa, said was successful. As a result, the current bouquet of services now include application for tax registration, de-registration for all tax types, filing and payment of all forms of tax such as VAT, customs duties, excise duties, pay as you earn (PAYE), income tax and other withholding taxes. Other services that are now available include viewing of compliance status, viewing of account status, updating personal or company details, tax clearance certificate application, viewing, printing and verification.

Although BoFiNet insists that its plan for more cables and powerful servers will ultimately improve internet service across the country, officials acknowledged impediments such as slow internet connectivity.

Transport and communications minister, Tshenolo Mabeo recently decried the country’s slow Internet connectivity which he said impacted negatively on business.

He had indicated that government is committed to solving these failures, which are understood to arise from the gap in broadband connectivity thus hindering access across various sectors of the economy.

Meanwhile, BoFiNet technical executive, Aldrin Sivako was quoted as saying that wide geographic areas sparsely populated and low economy of scale against huge capital cost also contributes to connectivity challenges.

He said Internet growth in Botswana has exponential growth pattern, adding that there was 300Mbps (0.3Gbps) of internet traffic in 2013.

Botswana is connected to the Africa submarine cables connecting it to the rest of the world through EASSy and WACS cables.

Sivako further stated that to-date, traffic is in excess of 10.4 GB/s, estimating traffic to reach 25Gbps by 2020 and that the majority of traffic is destined to Europe and USA.

He said annual global IP traffic will pass the zettabyte (ZB) and that Global IP traffic will increase nearly threefold over the next five years.

“Traffic from wireless and mobile devices will account for two-thirds of total IP traffic by 2020,” he said.

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