Yesterday Monday 4th January, 2010, three days after the official kick-off of the government’s new Goods and Services Tax or (GST), saw the ‘wholesale’ closure of dozens of shops and other businesses across Freetown. It was a big embarrassment (Dombolo) for the Ernest Bai Koroma led All Peoples Congress Government which had placed much dividend on a successful kickstarting of GST, come January 1st 2010.
Indeed, the GST kick-started on 1st January 2010 with 1,450 (one thousand, four hundred and fifty) businesses fully registered. However, several other members of the business community have expressed their dissatisfactions over what they referred to as the “high percentage” calculated as the GST. This was demonstrated by the closure of shops and business centers in Freetown yesterday Monday 4th January 2010.
One Mr. Kalil, a shop owner along Sani Abacha Street in Freetown told Awareness Times that the 15% increase in the percentage charged on the GST is dissatisfactory to most of them. He called on the government through the National Revenue Authority (NRA) to reduce this percentage to at least 10%. Mr. Kalil emphasized that until something is done, shop owners would continue to shut down their shops and business centers.
However, in an interview with the Assistant Commissioner National Revenue Authority (NRA), Mr. Alfred I. Akibo-Betts on Monday 4th January 2010, he told Awareness Times that the NRA, as far as the GST is concerned, is nothing but an implementer of the system and does not have the capability or authority to do any rate change of the tax. He said that authority is bestowed on the House of Parliament.
However, Mr. Akibo-Betts went on to say that the NRA on Monday 4th January 2010 held several consultative meetings with business houses on the unfortunate closure of shops on the said day and was able to gather from the business owners that their shops were closed on the basis that they had limited knowledge on the GST. He went on to say that now that they have now been thoroughly educated and have resolved their indifferences and will soon start operations.
Commissioner Akibo-Betts further disclosed that certificates have been issued to businesses, adding that the NRA in 2010 will now concentrate on educating businesses on the importance of their compliance to the payment of the GST; and also educating businesses and tax payers on the importance of requesting receipts after paying for goods or services.
”Sierra Leone’s GST is a modern form of sales tax-on-tax on the domestic consumption of imported and locally-produced goods and/or services, paid as a percentage of their value at the time they are imported, sold, exchanged, or delivered. From the start date 1st January 2010, GST will be applied at a single rate of fifteen percent (15%) on the majority of goods and services supplied in Sierra Leone for local use. It will replace seven existing taxes - import sales, domestic sales tax, entertainment tax, restaurant tax and food tax, messages tax, hotel accommodation tax and professional services tax - thereby simplifying and streamlining the present system of indirect taxation and reducing the cost of administration for the Government, the NRA and businesses,” said Mr. Akibo-Betts, adding, “It is also noted that non-tax charges, direct taxes such as income tax and corporation tax, and import duty, excise duty and export duty will continue to be charged, as previously, after the introduction of GST.”