Taxman calling as deadline looms

Cautionary: Moonwa. PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Cautionary: Moonwa. PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

As the October 30 tax returns filing deadline approaches, the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) has established additional service points across the country in an effort to increase service support for customers. With a database of about 250 000 tax payers, recently BURS have been conducting workshops across the country to sensitise the public about the new form that will be used for submission this year. Staff Writer PAULINE DIKUELO interviewed BURS’ Communications Specialist, Refilwe Moonwa to get an insight about the filing process.

BusinessWeek: Could you explain how the tax return process works?


Moonwa: According to the laws of Botswana, the tax year starts from July to September, and through that period, companies and all individual taxpayers have to submit their returns. Then as BURS, we do access what has been submitted to see if individuals have been over-taxed or under- taxed, that’s why at a later stage we resend the assessment to individuals. If over-taxed, then they can claim the money or pay more if you have been under-taxed.

But this year we decided to extend the filing season by an additional month because we have introduced a new form, which is quite different from the previous ones we have used. With this form, data will be captured by a scanner, which will help us to be efficient and effective.

BusinessWeek: Is there any improvement from last year?

Moonwa: Apart from the introduction of the new form, we have been conducting workshops across the country to teach people how to fill it before submission.  Some of the workshops are still ongoing at the service points as we speak.

BusinessWeek: BURS has introduced satellite service points across the country, could you elaborate more on this?

Moonwa: This is something that we have been doing for the past three years to improve efficiency and try to reduce the long lines. We realised that people like submitting on the final days especially the last two weeks, so we decided to bring the service to them by establishing service points across the country to better serve them.

In Gaborone we have added the Airport Junction mall, Riverwalk mall, Boipuso Hall and Molepolole, while in the southern region we have Kanye, Tsabong and Hukuntsi.

People in the north can get the service at Francistown’s Nzano mall, Tutume, Nata, Letlhakane and Sowa. Apart from our offices in the Central District, people can submit their returns at Palapye Junction, Mahalapye, Serowe, Selibe-Phikwe and Bobonong. All these additional service points will be closed on weekends, but people can submit at our offices on Saturday from 8am to 1pm.

BusinessWeek: Could you explain the significance of filing tax returns within the specified time period?

 Moonwa: Every end of the year, the employer has to give their employees the tax certificate, which will show if an individual, has been overtaxed or under-taxed. This also helps to have an appreciation as Batswana because the money from the tax is used for the development of the country.

BusinessWeek: What are the consequences of missing the deadline?

Moonwa: Submitting after deadline has penalties, and if one has a tendency of missing the deadline, once they retire we will discover the shortfall and subtract all that money from their retirement benefits.

BusinessWeek: What challenges have you encountered during the filing season?

Moonwa: People come in large numbers towards the end of the filing season, which at the end puts us under pressure because we do not want to keep people waiting for too long.

BusinessWeek: How far are you with the electronic filing of tax returns and how has the uptake been?

Moonwa: Currently, the e-filing only applies to the VAT returns not for individual taxpayers. We do hope that by the end of next season, which is next year, people would be able to file their returns at the convenience of their offices or homes. For now, we are still using the manual process while we wait for the e-filing process to take-off.

BusinessWeek: Any additional information?

Moonwa: I want to urge people who have not submitted or received their returns that they should come to our offices or additional points to be assisted. Lastly, we would like to encourage people to come and submit before the end of October to avoid penalties.

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