Pledges to consider tax loads on service traders
Officials of the Addis Ababa Tax Authority met with a large number of taxpayers who echoed their frustration over its poor customer services and poor handling of complaints which taxpayers have been filing against tax burdens.
During a public meeting held on Thursday at the municipality hall, members of the business community expressed their frustration against the authority’s grassroots’ services. Many have complained about poor customer service provisions they have been offered by tax officers stationed at sub-city and wereda levels (lower level of the administrative system of the authority).
The taxpayers, whom the city tax authority categorized as category B and category A, in terms of their annual tax returns, echoed several issues they have been facing. Across the meeting, similar complaints towards tax officers were reverberated. Many of the businesspersons have expressed distaste in the way the front desk tax officers and tax assessors have treated them calling them “unprincipled and unethical”.
The boiling points, however, were not limited to tax officers. Tax authorities branch managers were also sharply criticized for negligence while their presence was needed the most while disputes between taxpayers and tax officers mounted. In addition to that, many have decried on the positions of officials refusing externally audited accounts. “If you don’t trust their expertise then why do you license the auditors in the first place?” the taxpayers asked.
Shisema Gebreselassie, director general of the Addis Ababa City Government Tax Authority and his subordinates, admitted that some of the complaints taxpayers resonated have factual elements. For instance, Kalehiwot Mekonnen, director of Tax Audit Directorate with the authority admitted and apologized to one of the taxpayers for irregularities and inconveniences of the institution. A category “B” taxpayer, who earns a living out of a house rental business, said he was told to hold tax payments until an amended law is introduced. But later he was fined for late tax payments.
Admitting such occurrences, the newly reestablished tax authority has assured taxpayers that their book of accounts will not be rejected anymore. The tax authority also vowed it will not hold clearances as a means of insurance for payable sums.
In a related news, the authority has pledged to reconsider the amount of taxes the lower level or the category “C” taxpayers who are found to be highly burdened. Gezahegn Tamiru, deputy director of tax affairs with the authority told The Reporter that such businesses have been assessed and found to be somehow burdened.
According to both Shisema and Gezahegn, the tax authority is tasked with the collection of tax revenue of 34 billion birr. During the first month of the new Ethiopian fiscal year, the authority has amassed 3.4 billion birr from taxes, higher from the 3.33 billion birr target set.
Last fiscal year, 27.5 billion birr was the actual revenue collected from tax. According to Gezahegn, the target was set to amass 31.5 billion birr. In the current budget year, the city government has set a 46 billion birr budgetary revenue.
Across Addis Ababa, there are a registered 331,000 individual taxpayers and out of those 120,000 are classified as higher taxpayers in the category A and B. According to the tax proclamation, category A taxpayers are those individuals or companies that fall within the annual gross income of one million birr and above. Category B falls under the income range between 500,000 birr and 0ne million. Those whose annual gross income falls less than 500,000 birr classified as Category C or simply lower taxpayers.