No doubt, the wish of most Tanzanians is for the government to take appropriate actions to create an enabling environment for smooth business operations in the country.
These include not only instituting tax measures that are rational, but also those which make compliance easy.
Apparently we still have some way to go, especially in not only ensuring that lines of communication remain open, but work towards the goal of sustaining the enabling environment.
We are referring to the protest by some traders over the use of Electronic Fiscal Devices (EFDs) introduced by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).
TRA first introduced the gadgets in 2010 for VAT registered traders and later introduced the devices to non VAT registered traders with a turnover of at least 14m/- per annum as government’s efforts to increase revenues.
TRA considers the use of EFDs the best way of making a fair assessment of tax and increasing revenues. They are mandatory for traders who earn at least 14 million/- per year and according to TRA 200,000 small and midsized traders are supposed to use them.
Patrick Kasela the TRA Domestic tax commissioner was recently quoted saying the use of EFDs enabled TRA to increase revenue collection by 19 per cent in 2010/2011 and by 23 per cent in 2011/2012.
While it was Dar es Salaam traders who began the protest, it has spread to all the major cities such as Arusha, Mbeya and Mwanza.
It should also be noted that this is the second time that traders are protesting the use of the devices, the first being sometime last year when the traders closed their businesses claiming that the price of the EFDs was too high.
The price then was reduced from around 800,000/- to around 600,000/- each.
During their protest in November last year, some traders in Kariakoo – the central commercial part of the city – claimed that the devices were too expensive while some complained that they were cumbersome and not business friendly.
The representatives of the business community held a lengthy meeting with the Premier on Wednesday night, in which they said they expressed their concern with the tax collection system in the country.
They assured the prime Minister that they were not against paying tax, but wanted a fair system.
Whatever the outcome of the meeting, it is encouraging that lines of communication are open and hopefully a solution will be found.
With the majority of the traders claiming to find the gadgets cumbersome, TRA needs to continue its education and sensitisation campaign, especially in the area of fair assessment based on recorded sales.
At the same time, TRA agents dealing with the gadgets should ensure customer care services are in place to serve those who complain of malfunctions of the devices so no one gets an excuse.
Shoving the gadgets unto them without enlightening them on how the system works is recipe for disaster. For instance some traders have been protesting the payment of the 18 percent VAT which is actually imposed on the consumers not them so if anyone was to complain of the VAT it should have been the consumers.