OP-ED: 5 reasons why the Tax Administration Library is a great hub for publications from African Tax Administrations

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  • 31 Jan 2022
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Building tax administration capacity is needed to stimulate development in terms of job creation, functioning roads and hospitals and improve education systems on the continent. The Tax Administration Library (TAL), therefore, aims to serve as a central repository of home-grown knowledge and experience on African tax administration and tax policy which will become a valuable resource for its members and other stakeholders. By having access to information from other ATAF member states, African tax administrations can learn from their peers about the good practices, successful reforms and policy initiatives they have implemented and leverage these in seeking to improve tax systems in their own countries. The TAL aims to serve as a central repository of home-grown knowledge and experience on African tax administration and tax policy which will become a valuable resource for its members and other stakeholders. 

Revolutionary! That is how I would describe the Tax Administration Library (TAL). Imagine a one stop shop where resources such as annual reports, strategic plans and tax codes are in one place. They not only facilitate peer learning and knowledge exchange but also permit comparisons of good practices and experiences across jurisdictions. Africa has lacked this online hub for a long time, I find that the TAL is unique and handy in this regard. This online library, the first of its kind, enables users to access a wide range of materials produced by African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) member countries, thus promoting knowledge sharing and peer learning.

Building tax administration capacity is needed to stimulate development in terms of job creation, functioning roads and hospitals and improve education systems on the continent. The TAL, therefore, aims to serve as a central repository of home-grown knowledge and experience on African tax administration and tax policy which will become a valuable resource for its members and other stakeholders. For instance, academics and other researchers have access to key documents from tax administrations across the continent, thus making it easier to conduct cross-country research, comparisons and benchmarking and pinpoint areas in tax policy and administration that warrant further research.

We are fortunate to live in an age where information is constantly at our fingertips whether it’s through a computer or a smart phone and we find information on anything. Recognizing the significance of access to information, the 74th UN General Assembly proclaimed 28 September 2019 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). The aim was to recognize and raise awareness of the importance of universal access to information.

Therefore, by having access to information from other ATAF member states, African tax administrations can learn from their peers about the good practices, successful reforms and policy initiatives they have implemented and leverage these in seeking to improve tax systems in their own countries. This online library aims to serve as a central repository of home-grown knowledge and experience on African tax administration and tax policy which will become a valuable resource for its members and other stakeholders.

EXAMPLES OF INTERESTING PUBLICATIONS ON THE TAL

There are over 50 interesting publications from 19 ATAF member countries in the TAL. One of the interesting publications is the tax expenditure report from Madagascar. According to the IMF, tax expenditures is a fiscal policy option in which governments provide financial support to companies and individuals by means of reduced tax liability. Tax expenditures may include exemptions i.e. exclusion from the tax base, allowances i.e. amounts deducted from the tax base before applying the tax rate(s) and tax deferrals i.e. a delay in paying the tax liability among others. Reporting on tax expenditure is a good practice worth emulating because they are a hidden cost to the government and are prone to abuse. Therefore, when a country produces tax expenditure reports, it demonstrates transparency on this hidden cost.

An example of a tax expenditure is tax incentives and in the TAL there is a tax incentives report from Malawi. Tax incentives offer a benefit to an individual or a company to encourage a particular economic activity like investment. In the Malawi tax incentive report, it details a wide range of tax incentives offered by the Malawi government with the aim of encouraging development, enabling business establishments to grow, enhancing output, earning, and saving foreign exchange, and expanding employment opportunities thereby contributing to the overall social-economic development of Malawi.

Strategic planning and management in revenue authorities is a key ingredient of tax policy and tax administration as it provides a sense of direction and guides the daily operations of the tax administrations subject to the prevailing challenges, opportunities and strengths. In the TAL, there are several strategic and corporate plans from several tax administrations including: Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Burundi, Senegal, and Malawi. Having these important strategic documents in one place makes it easy for tax administrations to learn from their peers on the strategic focus areas. Furthermore, researchers working on strategic management in tax administrations can easily compare strategic focus areas and directions of tax administrations. Additionally, the Burundi tax administration publishes the anti-corruption strategy aimed at eliminating corruption in the tax administration to achieve its Vision 2025. This publication, which is also available in the TAL, is a good practice which can be emulated by other tax administrations in Africa, especially because corruption in revenue authorities is usually endemic.

Another set of important publications available in the TAL are the tax statistics reports published by South Africa, Madagascar and Burundi. The tax statistics publications provide comprehensive overview of tax revenue collections and tax return information for the respective tax administrations. Such statistics are crucial for decision making and tax transparency purposes. Other tax administrations can learn the reporting style, parameters being reported on, and provides insight into the direction of the economy.

The TAL digital platform houses publications that include but are not limited to: Annual Reports, Strategic or Corporate plans and monitoring reports, Research Papers, Tax Expenditure Reports, Revenue Mobilisation Strategies, Project Evaluation Reports, Revenue Analysis Reports/Revenue Performance Reports, Tax Statistics Reports, Journal Articles, Tax Campaign Material, Tax Education Material and other relevant publications from the tax administration. In the year 2022, new uploads will also be made to the digital library and will include Taxation Acts/Legislation or amendments to the Acts, COVID-19 related publications from the ATAF membership among others.

HOW TO ACCESS THE ONLINE LIBRARY 

The TAL can be accessed via the ATAF website www.ataftax.org. Users are required to register an account on the website. To do so click on the Research tab on the home page and then click on Tax Administration Library. Users must register by clicking on the ‘register’ button of the TAL platform. Once registered users can click on the login button of the TAL to access the library for free. One can also use the following link to either register or to log in: https://myaccount.ataftax.org/register/.

The TAL is prefaced on the fact that the performance of a tax administration can be improved by comparing it to the experience of other similar (African) countries. Therefore, when successful reform publications and good practices are shared on TAL, countries with similar problems can learn from examining how the tax challenges were dealt with, of course bearing in mind that there may not be a simple solution to the local problems. Thus, by having access to information from other ATAF member states, African tax administrations can learn from their peers about the good practices, successful reforms and policy initiatives they have implemented and leverage these in seeking to improve tax systems in their own countries.

For media enquiries contact: communication@ataftax.org or call us on 0797902960

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