The newly inducted President of the Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners, Mr. Theophilus D. Joseph, has proposed that the Ministry of Finance should not under any circumstance impose levies and disciplinary actions that have not been provided for in the Tax Code.
Mr. Joseph said specifically that no one should be required to pay taxes that are not provided for in the Revenue Code of Liberia.
“Our main focus at the newly organized Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners (LITP) is to bridge the gaps in the roles played by the Tax Administrators, Tax Practitioners and Tax Payers in the tax regime, in order to foster a cordial relationship between the three players to promote a robust tax system which will eventually lead to increased revenue generation for the Government and people of Liberia,” Mr. Joseph said at the induction ceremony held last Saturday in Monrovia.
He said the Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners (LITP) was organized and established mainly to regulate activities of Tax Practitioners and ensure that the services rendered by these tax practitioners are of the best quality, with regards to the ethics of the profession and in line with their moral duties and obligations to the clients that they serve and above all to their Government and country.
Mr. Joseph said the LITP is also organized to disseminate Tax Education in a clear and concise manner in order to encourage compliance and limit to a significant extent the unnecessary fights and disagreements that usually ensue between Tax Administrators, Tax Practitioners and Tax payers, largely due to ignorance of the law, lack of sufficient knowledge, misinterpretation of the tax law, and in some instances outright dishonesty.
“We note that the lack of a proper forum through which Tax Administrators, Tax Practitioners and Tax Payers handle their concerns is the major hurdle that has led to tax benefits not being properly utilized by the parties concerned,” the new LITP Boss said.
He said the LITP will be available to address this by striving to provide Continuing Professional Education to all stakeholders for the betterment of tax administration and compliance in the country.
Mr. Joseph also noted that the LITP will continuously engage the Ministry of Finance to clearly define provisions in the Tax Code which are seen as ambiguous. “We believe tax payers will comply better and fully with provisions of the tax laws when these laws and their administration are made as simple as possible so that Tax Administrators can easily interpret them and use their discretionary powers fairly,” Mr. Joseph said.
He said LIPT will encourage Tax Payers and Tax Practitioners to seek “Advanced Rulings” from the Ministry of Finance at all times on the tax effects of contemplated business transactions which are not clearly evident in the Tax Code – before undertaking such transactions.
Delivering the keynote Address earlier, Finance Minister Konneh said taxation is not just Government withholding hard earned money from citizens or businesses, but that it’s an opportunity for citizens to invest in building the kind of society they want to live in. According to him, paying taxes is also a chance for each business entity to invest in growing the kind of economy they want to operate in, now and in the future.
The Minister acknowledged that while it’s true people are still trying to rebuild confidence in Government, even as it continues to institute reforms in public financial management and other governance areas, he cautioned that paying taxes is not just about capturing revenue or building roads and bridges or laying electricity transmission lines, or building a hydro, but it’s “about being able to look at our children and grandchildren, and being able to say that, when we had the chance, we laid the foundation to make them healthy, happy and prosperous.”
Minister Konneh disclosed that the government of Liberia is taking major strides to provide quality services to the Liberian people, enhance government’s capacity to govern the country efficiently and effectively, and strengthen its mechanisms to manage public funds transparently.
He warned that with shortages in revenue which is due to limited commitment by citizens and firms to pay taxes, this trend is expected to continue, if Liberians do not change that behavior. “The result is a high debt ceiling, even if loans for high yield investments are highly concessional. The result also is that we subject ourselves to conditionalities from development partners that allow us limited flexibility to take the unorthodox policy decisions that we know can lead to real and rapid development. The result is the dissatisfaction and the restlessness of a people who are anxious to see concrete signs that Government is fulfilling its promise to them.”
The Finance Minister cautioned that each citizen has a clear choice of whether or not to pay taxes. “And each person’s, each company’s choice has consequences that we will all have to live with for decades to come. That is why the LITP’s role is so critical. Tax practitioners are nation builders in their own right, because they encourage and support citizens, residents and businesses to contribute their rightful share to our development effort.” The Minister furthered: “In economics, we say that there is no free lunch. You may not pay for the lunch, but somebody has to pay for it. For Liberia, there is no free development; no free running water; no free electricity; no free education or healthcare; there is no free peace and security. The money to pay school teachers, doctors and nurses, engineers and bus drivers, police and military officers, comes from somewhere. Even if prenatal and infant medical care is free for the patients, the resources to fund them come from the national budget, which is reliant on revenue, loans or grants from our development partners.”
Minister Konneh disclosed that the Government of Liberia, through its Tax Payer Services Unit in the Ministry of Finance, has been very vigorous in educating taxpayers as well as the general public on tax information. “The LITP complements these initiatives and will provide invaluable support to us in our revenue mobilization efforts.”
He welcomed the newly established Liberian Institute of Tax Practitioners and pledged government’s full support in ensuring that their objectives will be achieved.
The Liberian Institute of tax practitioners was established by Liberian professionals working on tax issues through the instrumentality of the Ministry of Finance. The LITP serves as the sole body for the certification of Tax professionals in Liberia by promoting the advancement of the taxation profession, administering examinations and certifying qualified persons. The mission of the Liberian Institute of tax practitioners is to create equity in Liberian taxation through the provision of quality professional tax education.
LITP officers who were elected on November 30, 2013 and inducted on Saturday by Judge Eva Mappy Morgan of the Commercial Court were Theophilus Dekonty Joseph, President, Atty. R. Macdonald Garnett, Vice President, and Mrs. Juanita as Treasurer.