Professionals involved in practices that breed non-tax compliance or outright fraud are a disgrace to the country, tax and revenue experts have said.
According to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General Doris Akol, the executive director of the East African School of Taxation (EAST), Mr Godfrey Akena and a seasoned tax expert, Mr Simon Kagugube, professionals who perpetuate tax abuses and fraud are not only badly draining the country but are also a liability to the society.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of 117 graduates of post graduate diplomas in tax revenue and administration from EAST, Ms Akol told the graduates that being experts in tax matters is incomplete without upholding the professional ethical standards of the profession.
She said: “Your job is beyond just the nuts and bold of taxation. It is incumbent upon you to enforce compliance.”
She continued: “Ethical standards alongside capacity and competence are a key factor in tax administration. And if you compromise especially the ethics then everybody will be shocked and surprised by your conduct because tax payers do not expect you to do that.”
Ms Akol also argued that the tax experts do not have to be corrupt to be successful. She said it is more satisfying to get rich through the right way, considering that the tax profession provides a niche for those who do their work well and professionally.
In an interview, Mr Akena said the 117 graduates armed with sufficient tax knowledge have a duty to help enforce tax compliance.
He said: “You are now tax consultants and you have a duty to advise your clients to pay taxes correctly. And do that without being corrupt. It is only fair that taxes are paid. If taxes are not paid how can we be independent as a country?”
Mr Kagugube, also the board chairperson of EAST, advised the graduates and tax experts in general to be patient and not be tempted by “get rich quick syndrome” that could drive them into fraud and unethical behaviour, denting their careers.
The panama papers
The recent revelations in leaked Panama Papers shows lawyers and accountants (who happened to make the majority of the taxation school graduates) at the forefront in helping the wealthy to avoid payment by helping to move their businesses to tax havens jurisdictions with a view to rob the country where that money is earned its due share of taxes.
As if that is not bad enough, the High Level Panel report, 2015, says Uganda loses between shs1.5 trillion and Shs2.5trillion to illicit financial flows. According to the report these are as conservative estimates. The amount of money the country loses to IFFs is three to four times the budget allocated to agriculture in the last five financial years.