It’s tiring to navigate Uganda’s tax system

Jude Amodoi

What you need to know:

  • URA is grappling with an unquenchable thirst for revenue... we, the taxpayers, bear the brunt of these relentless pressures

In Ugandan fiscal history, 1991 heralded the birth of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), cloaked in grandiose promises of revolutionising tax collection and administration. Today, URA stands as a formidable titan in Uganda’s financial realm, entrusted with the herculean mission of revenue gathering that spans domestic taxes, customs duties, and more. Yet, behind the veil of transformation lies an intricate tapestry of challenges that bedevil and bemuse taxpayers. 

URA’s relentless pursuit of efficiency is akin to a tempestuous whirlwind, a choreography aimed at streamlining processes. Yet, for us, humble taxpayers, it often feels like a dance upon a tightrope, balancing between complexity and fairness.

 Some of our  businesses stand as pillars of society, serving the needs of communities. However, amid bureaucratic reforms and labyrinthine tax processes, we often find ourselves entangled.  Consider the customs cargo clearance, a bewildering maze that ensnares numerous importers and exporters, leaving them in oblivion. Regrettably, we bear the brunt of this inefficiency as our businesses languish due to unending delays.

Startling research sheds light on our tribulations, revealing an unsettling truth: the government loses a staggering 30 percent of its revenue due to perplexing bureaucratic convolutions. Meanwhile, we, the beleaguered taxpayers, watch helplessly as our profits dwindle by nearly 40 percent, thanks to inexplicable tax delays. These tribulations extend beyond our bottom lines, casting a pall over the nation’s fiscal health and economic growth.

URA is grappling with an unquenchable thirst for revenue. In the intricate fiscal tapestry of 2023/2024, an audacious target of Shs30 trillion looms ominously, resembling a towering peak.This audacious goal, set against the backdrop of a post-Covid-19 world and the geopolitical turbulence of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, often leads to aggressive tax collection strategies.

While we recognise the indispensable role of tax revenue, we, the taxpayers, bear the brunt of these relentless pressures. Compliance turns into a vertiginous climb, and the complex tax collection terrain bewilders us. The intricacies of domestic tax revenue mobilisation compound our tribulations.

Within the hallowed halls of URA, an enigma persists—an administrative ethos infused with martial principles. This military-inspired approach, ostensibly designed to purge corruption and enhance URA’s performance, has birthed its own set of challenges. Effective leadership should consider the human toll, especially on us, the taxpayers. Past commissioner generals masterfully balanced outcomes with our well-being. However, in the present, we find ourselves entangled in delays and indecision.

URA must champion the creation of a comprehensive, one-stop tax resolution office—an oasis where taxpayers can promptly seek end-to-end solutions. This initiative should break the cycle of endless referrals, liberating us from bureaucratic quagmires and alleviating the financial burdens we endure due to avoidable delays.

In closing, URA’s evolution must prioritise equitable, transparent tax administration, fostering prosperity for all without compromising on efficiency. This will curb citizens from their relentless and recurring pursuits for quick gains from get-rich schemes and be intentional about systematic growth and economic development.

The writer is a business analyst, a tax payer and a passionate advocate for fostering economic growth.
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