In its quest to move Africa beyond aid through tax revenue mobilisation, The African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) secretariat has announced that the development and implementation of ATAF products such as model on tax treaties, suggested approaches on transfer pricing and interest deductibility all of which are said to be crucial to stop the bleeding away of Africa’s resources, are gradually bearing fruits.
“It is our hope that our members recognise that this optimism of the last ten years has created a story which has changed tax administration and policy on the continent and the value of whose impact is enriching the lives of its citizens,” said ATAF Secretary General Logan Wort.
Speaking during the 5th General Assembly and Conference of ATAF, which was officially opened by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, in Gaborone on Tuesday, Wort said that ATAF is equally proud of the additional $170 million collected by its member states’ auditors with ATAF’s support in the last three years, and that this is just the start as multinationals alter their compliance behavior and start paying their fair share of taxes.
He, however, pointed out that Africa face new challenges on the continent which will stretch the resources of states and its people such as climate change, migration, the poverty gap, population imbalances, the resource 'curse', institutional failure and illicit flows adding that tax is the central mechanism for allowing the State to balance population demands and economic growth.
“We in Africa need a wider vision in the next decade to achieve this. We believe that ATAF has a special responsibility to help shape that vision,” he said.
To achieve this, Wort said countries need to among others see tax as part of the overall economy and to link the various aspects of policy so that tax plays a central role in economic development and the tax system reflects the needs and aspirations the people. And look more closely at the concerns of ATAF members and the components of the tax system itself by addressing these holistically through recognising the interconnections between direct and indirect taxes, domestic and international taxes, the taxation challenges of key business sectors and the digitalization of the African economy, audit and anti-fraud investigation techniques, and the development of systems to widen the tax net and allow for simpler compliance.
“We need to build our own technologies to make this work. The information age places increased demands on what is taxable and how this is defined, where value resides and what digitisation means,” Wort said.
Sharing Wort’s sentiments , ATAF chairperson Tunde Fowler stated that the work of the organisation is at the peak of its visibility both at the continental level, and globally and that the recent recognition of ATAF’s work by the African Union during the July Assembly of its Heads of State and Government in Mauritania, as well as the most recent acceptance of ATAF as a member to two sub committees, of the UN Experts on Mutual Tax Matters (ODA and Tax Treaties) that took place last week in Geneva, Switzerland is a clear manifestation of the global and continental recognition and endorsement of ATAF as the leading voice on African taxation.
He pointed out that the ATAF 5th General Assembly was taking place at a time of increased globalisation when many countries on the continent are realising and appreciating the benefits of free movement of goods, labour and capital. These developments, he said, provide both opportunities and challenges when it comes to tax administration.
“The growing sophistication in tax evasion and avoidance is a major threat that no single country can successfully tackle individually. But it can be fought collectively and that is why ATAF Committees including those meeting here this week are sharing experience, developing common solutions and a voice for Africa in this area.,” said Fowler.
The main objective of the conference was to reflect on moving Africa beyond aid through tax revenue mobilization and its key points included election a new council that will preside over the destiny of the organisation for the next two years, the official launch of ATAF’s 10 year anniversary celebrations, the official hand over of the African Tax Outlook publication to ATAF’s members and many other important institutional matters.
ATAF was established by African revenue authorities in 2009, in order to improve the performance of tax administrations in Africa. The Organisation’s belief is that better tax administration will enhance economic growth, increase accountability of states and their citizens, and more effectively mobilise domestic resources.
Now in its ninth year of operation and headquartered in Pretoria, South Africa, ATAF seeks to improve the capacity of African tax administrations to achieve their revenue objectives, advance the role of taxation in African governance and state building, provide a voice for African tax administrations and develop and support partnerships between African countries and its development partners.