Monday December 10 2007

Tax Platform: Take advantage of tax amnesty

By F.Kamulegeya

AS most of you will recall, the minister of finance announced a tax amnesty during his budget speech in the June.

The amnesty extends to those taxpayers who have been aware that their house was not in order, and were prepared to take the risk, and also to those who may not have been aware that their house was not in order but a little bit of "soul searching" has revealed that they too could take advantage of the amnesty.

If you fall in either of these two categories, and you have not done anything as yet, time is running out. The tax amnesty expires at the end of the year, which means you now have less than four weeks to carry out a tax review or health check on your business before the amnesty period expires.

  You cannot afford to delay your "soul searching" any longer. The last day for filing the amnesty, which includes submitting revised returns, and paying the tax is  December 31 and there will be no extensions.

It is particularly encouraging that URA are playing their part to make the tax amnesty a success. They have set up a dedicated and committed team to deal with issues on amnesty.

Several meetings have taken place between ourselves in the tax profession and the URA, in order to clarify issues relating to the amnesty.  The result of these discussions have been the publication of two Practice Notes by the URA, explaining to the taxpaying community how the amnesty works and what they need to do to take advantage of it.

In addition to this, the URA Commissioner General has recently written to all taxpayers in the country reminding them about the tax amnesty.
So there you do not have any excuse not to take advantage of this once in a life time opportunity here in Uganda to pay your tax arrears without the additional tax cost of interest and penalties.
The tax amnesty is meant to be a relatively painless remedy that allows taxpayers to put their house in order. 

We can all expect the URA to carry out tax audits and investigations with renewed energy after the tax amnesty expires. We can also expect less or no sympathy from the URA on the remission of penalties and interest relating to tax arrears, post the amnesty period. Taxpayers and businesses who will not take advantage of this year's tax amnesty will only have themselves to blame once the law catches up with them.

Clearly from a business management and cash flow perspective, it would be risky for any business which is aware that it has some tax arrears, however small they may be, to ignore this tax amnesty in the hope that the taxman will not catch up with them.

My message to all taxpayers in the country, especially the errant ones particularly those currently outside the tax system, is, now is the time to come clean, and this is your last chance!

In deciding whether the amnesty is financially attractive to your business, one should consider the cost of penalties and interest which is what is "forgiven" under the amnesty.

Penalties on undeclared income (on the unpaid or underpaid tax) are imposed at 20 per cent of the principal tax and interest charges levied at 2 per cent per month. Similar penalties also apply to other taxes like VAT and duty.

Taxpayers who act quickly and take advantage of the tax amnesty stand to save substantial amounts in penalties and related costs that would be payable when the tax man cometh, and you can bet he surely will.

Mr Kamulegeya is a tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers