The Round 5 Survey, which covered 29 countries in sub- Sahara Africa including Nigeria, has the theme: “Africa’s willing taxpayers thwarted by opaque tax systems and corruption.”
It shows that a majority of Africans see tax generated government revenue as an important national development resource, but perceived corruption also plays a role in people’s willingness to pay taxes.
Presenting the survey findings to journalists, civil society groups and government officials, Rose Aiko, the Director of Research on Governance and Service Delivery at REPOA Policy Research For Development in Dar Es Salam, said a sample of 43,500 representing the views of half of the African population provided answers relating to taxation in their countries.
The findings show that though majority of the citizens are of the opinion that paying taxes is important for development , however majority of citizens who participated in the survey expressed concern that it is difficult to know how much tax they pay and would like government to be transparent about how taxes are spent.
The participants also expressed concern over perceived corruption by tax officials which hinders and prevent taxable citizens from fulfilling their tax obligation.
“Six in ten people say it is difficult to know how much tax they pay and a seven in ten do not know how the government spent the taxes”
Further findings shows that two- thirds (66%) of the people interviewed say citizens pay taxes for their country to develop. A majority (52%) favours paying higher taxes in exchange for better services; just one in three (35%) who would give up services in favour for low taxes.
Also seventy percent say authorities have the right to make people pay taxes. Across 16 countries, tracked since 2002, this figure has increased from 64% to 71%. Half (49%) say it is wrong and punishable for people to avoid paying the taxes they owe the government.
Equally, a large majority report that tax systems remain opaque; 625 say it is difficult to find out what taxes they owe, 76% say it is difficult to find out how governments use tax revenue.
“The perception that tax officials are corrupt was expressed in 39%of the respondents saying that “most” or “all” tax officials are corrupt and another 39% think that at least some of them are. This perceived corruption among tax officials according to the findings appears to undermine commitment to the integrity of the tax system. Distrust in the conduct of tax officials increases tolerance for tax avoidance in principle and reported non-compliance with tax obligations in practice the findings have shown.
Carolyn Logan ,a deputy director of Afrobarometer and an assistant professor at the Michigan state university also participated in the survey .
The survey shows that mobilization of resources top priority on Africa’s development agenda however for most countries, the revenue available from taxes is far less than actual public –sector spending needs.
“Revenue averaged 24% of gross domestic product from 2000 t0 2010 with a peak performance at 28% in 2008. When compared with the tax efforts in OECD countries (33.8%), it is clear there is room for Afr4ican countries to expand tax revenue generation. Reform of domestic taxation systems has been accorded high priority across the continent over the past two decades; Afrobarometer findings suggest that Africans are largely on board; people affirm that national development should be built on domestic taxation, rather than relying solely on other sources of revenue , moreover , tax authorities enjoy widespread and growing legitimacy among African citizens “
“The Afrobarometer findings suggest that government need to improve the transparency and accountability of revenue authorities if they want to strengthen the foundations of a sound revenue system.
The finding also suggests that as governments face growing demands for better services and improved living conditions, there is a need to aggressively reform tax and public finance drive to improve revenue collection as top development priorities.