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ERS COLLECTS ABOUT E1BN IN TAX DEBTS

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ZULWINI - Tax is important to Eswatini as it pays for public goods and services, it is also a key ingredient in the social contract between citizens and the economy.

Eswatini Revenue Services (ERS) has collected close to E1 billion in tax debts from the public since the launch of the Tax Debt Relief Programme two months ago. This was mentioned by the newly appointed ERS Commissioner General Brightwell Nkambule yesterday. Nkambule said some businesses have been reluctant in coming forward to declare their tax debt as they aim to collect E4 billion in tax debts.

Progress

“We have collected close to E1 billion in the past two months and this is a sign that we are making progress in the programme,” he said. The commissioner general also mentioned that he hopes businesses and individuals who have not come forward to declare their tax debts will do so in the next four weeks. He said many businesses had a tendency of declaring tax when its closer to the deadline which is also expected in the current programme. Tax arrears in Eswatini have increased by 29 per cent to E9.369 billion from E7.262 billion in 2020/21. This was mentioned by the Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg. The minister said the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with other economic and social disturbances weigh on current and future growth prospects. He said these challenges continue to threaten our ability to maintain our tax revenue mobilisation goals. Tax arrears increased by 29per cent to E9.369 billion from E7.262 billion in 2020/21.

Disturbances

Rijkenberg mentioned that these disturbances continue to affect the economy thus decreasing the domestic revenue collections. “As a result, domestic revenue collections in 2021/22 were 10 per cent below estimates which was about E1.235 billion”, mentioned the minister. He added that in line with the weaker than expected revenue collection, domestic taxes to GDP ratio has declined by 0.3 percentage points in 2021/22 to reach 14.9per cent. The minister further mentioned that the increase in tax arrears is a concern for the ERS and government and the introduction of the Tax Debt Relief Programme is one of their efforts to contain the increase that has averaged 25.1per cent per year. Commissioner General Brightwell Nkambule said ERS will hold employers responsible for failing to declare Pay As You Earn (PAYE) they have collected from their employees.

Tendency

Nkambule said many companies and organisations now have a tendency of collection PAYE from their employees and submit it to ERS. He said, afore, ERS use to directly collect the PAYE which is 33 per cent of the employee’s salary, but they changed that system and entrusted their employers to collect on their behalf. “We will be strict to employers who fail to submit PAYE they collected from their employees as well as those that fail to declare the number of employees they have”, said the commissioner. To support this motion Minister Neal Rijkenberg said an Income Tax bill has been tabled in parliament to punish employers and agents for the PAYE collected and not declared.

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