MPs query URA officials over payment of tax arrears

Members of Parliament have tasked officials from the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to provide adequate accountability accruing from taxation by the Authority on business entities in the country.

While reviewing the Auditor General’s report on the performance of URA for the financial year 2013/2014, MPs on the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) tasked URA officials to explain payment of tax arrears amounting to over shs4.5 billion in bounced cheques by Multiplex among other companies and institutions.

“In all responses URA has given, they mention attached documents but they have not been availed to us. There is a whistle-blower report that there are companies that do not remit taxes, and we want to review the documents presented to that effect,” said COSASE deputy chairperson Hon. Ibrahim Kasozi.

Kasozi also said that there was over shs14 billion that had no accountability responses, which prompted the committee to give URA up to 23 April 2019 to present the documents.

“This could mean that URA is either unserious or is covering up something. A response cannot be given to the committee yet supporting documents have not been attached,” said Kasozi.

The team of URA officials led by Commissioner General Doris Akol presented a schedule of taxpayers and a sample of five memoranda of understanding with different taxpayers which the committee said it will study.

On the bounced cheques, the Commissioner of Legal Services at URA, Patience Tumusiime, said that several enforcement methods had been instituted.

“We have used methods like a warrant of distress to recover money from defaulting tax payers and we have been able to collect shs1.8 billion” said Tumusiime.

Akol also told MPs that gaps in revenue collection were partly attributed to digital migration in services by URA where many companies did not renew their tax identification numbers (TIN) ‘thus the authority was unable to follow up tax collection from such companies’.

“A shame-list was created and these tax defaulters were put on that list which was published in major newspapers, though many of the listed companies have since never responded,” Akol said.

The Commissioner Domestic Taxes, Henry Saka, told COSASE that the shame-list was a key enforcement measure by the Authority meant to catch defaulters, adding that, “companies that are put on this list have prior to, been engaged to pay their taxes and have failed to respond”.

The Committee also tasked the URA officials to explain tax waivers of over shs100 million to some companies despite commitments that had been made to pay off the arrears.

“In the figures URA presented to us on payment of these tax arrears, there is still a balance of shs1.22 billion. We asked them where this money is and they requested to revisit their records and bring us better facts,” Kasozi said after the meeting.

URA officials will appear again before COSASE on 16 April 2019 for further scrutiny of the Auditor’s General’s report into its performance in the different financial years.