Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) acting commissioner general, Segolo Lekau says tighter collections and less evasion of payment would raise public revenues and reduce the need for government to increase taxes in the short term.
The top taxman’s remarks on Tuesday came as Cabinet is set to consider finance ministry proposals that include increasing various taxes as part of measures to restore fiscal stability in NDP 11. Recently revised forecasts indicate that the cumulative deficits in the six years of NDP 11, which ends in March 2023, will amount to P18.8 billion. Lekau also said a more patriotic attitude to taxes was critical and Batswana needed to view paying taxes as a civic duty rather than a nuisance to be avoided. “Our taxes are the lowest in the region and from what government is saying, we are on a path where something will happen,” he told a briefing of editors. “I’m saying to the extent that we are all paying taxes, there’s no need for us to increase. What we need is voluntary compliance. “However, we are running into difficulties of people not paying taxes and they think they have cheated government or BURS.
“You have actually cheated another Motswana.” Lekau said government’s only sources of revenue were borrowings or domestic taxes and in an atmosphere where donor nations were no longer willing to help countries
Lekau described taxation as a “social contract” between the State and its citizens, where money is paid for services and development. He acknowledged that increasingly citizens the world over were questioning the wisdom of paying taxes when governments were not living up to their side of the contract. In developed countries, some citizens are saying they won’t pay because there’s no return on their investment and that’s a political issue. “If taxes are not used for what they should be, then we are making Batswana poor,” Lekau said.
Besides adjusting taxes, the finance ministry has also proposed reducing the number of tax exempt goods and services, rationalising the civil service and tightening public finance management, including cracking down on corruption.