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President Samia Defends Ousted Tax Boss. Here is Why the New Commissioner Has His Work Cut Out

The new commissioner is coming in with work already cut out for him, especially on ensuring he meets the targets of Tshs. 29.4 trillion.

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President Samia Suluhu defended the ousted Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner, Alphayo J. Kidata, and explained his quality of integrity made him a target. This was revealed by the President during a state house function at the Tunguu State House in Zanzibar on July 05, 2024.

“TRA under Kidata did very well, but why have I removed him? I saw that he was going to lose it, the way he was being hounded,” explained President Samia as she made Kidata Presidential tax advisor or as she put it President’s right-hand man on tax issues.

President Samia removed Kidata from the role on July 02, 2024, when he appointed Yusuph Juma Mwenda as the new Commissioner. Mwenda is assuming the post coming from his role as the Commissioner of Zanzibar Revenue Authority.

TRA was the center of the public discussion for the past three weeks starting with the trader’s strike which started on June 24, 2024, and was concluded on June 27, 2024. Moreover, on June 28, 2024, a letter from several ambassadors highlighting TRA repression to investors was circulated online together with its response from Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the ministry agreed to organize the dialogue.

Before the trader’s strike, on June 22, 2024, there was an organized campaign on X formerly Twitter to remove Kidata from his post arguing he was the cause of traders’ concerns in the country. Speaking to the TRA staff on July 07, 2024, the new Commissioner said he plans to repay the president’s trust by exceeding her expectations.

“I know there are taxpayers who complain because they don’t want to pay taxes, but there are also those who complain because they are genuinely mistreated by some officials due to lack of professionalism. I do not associate with people who lack integrity, integrity leads to inadequate collections, my friends are those who act professionally,” said Mwenda.

He added: “Fairness means not favoring or mistreating taxpayers; it’s not about letting the big ones not pay and making the small ones pay. All taxpayers are our partners but those who don’t comply are not our friends; we will engage with them to change so they start complying.”

Yusuph Mwenda speaking during a function to welcome him at the TRA offices in Zanzibar, former Commissioner Alphayo Kidata is on his left.

Work Cut Out

The new commissioner is coming in with work already cut out for him, especially on ensuring he meets the targets of Tshs. 29.4 trillion. This is after the institution had managed to collect 97.67 percent of the tax target in the financial year 2024/25, equivalent to Tshs. 27.6 Trillion.

President Samia has also expressed her disillusionment with traders who have continued to evade tax even after her government has reformed the tax environment.

“The government has done everything; we have created a good environment for doing business and investment. Investors are coming, businesses are operating, but taxes are not being paid. In Kariakoo, the problem is paying taxes. If you go there today, they tell you one thing; if you go tomorrow, they tell you another thing,” argued President Samia.

On the issue of tax evasion, President Samia highlighted one of the items that made Kidata unpopular to some investors, politicians, TRA employees, and local businessmen. In the same vein, Samia cautioned the incoming Commissioner to be cautious not to seek to be loved by everyone or he would end up getting removed from the post.

“I know in TRA they are now celebrating; Kidata is out. He was not loved even by us [politicians] because when a cargo is entered and they ask Kidata to allow for a free entry, he will not allow for the good to pass unless it was taxed.”

President Samia also queried about some investors’ practices: “There are taxes that are exempted from being paid by investors, games that are getting played there. Kidata had saved 64 billion from items that were included in an exemption list, they had mixed them. But they also bring in dangerous items, things they don’t even use, so you ask yourself were they going to sell them or who is using them? queried President Samia.

Finding Balance

President Samia has tasked TRA officials to find ways to ensure taxes are getting paid, especially in a situation where many people are not using electronic receipts.

In her speech, she expounded that some issues are being pushed by the TRA employees themselves especially due to corruption, and pointed out issues such as the freezing of businessmen’s bank accounts have seemed to be used politically.

“There is an issue of relationship with businessmen, they are quick to complain and disrupt politics. But these are businessmen who collect VAT, PAYE and they don’t submit and they lie during the submission of returns,” explained President Samia.

She added: “In most cases, officials will advise the Commissioner let close their Bank Account and seize their assets, but that step gives them a reason to complain and disrupt our politics, go and see what you can do about it. But action should be taken, to make sure our taxes are paid.”

Many observers including the Tanzania Controller and Audit General have queried the procedures of tax dispute resolutions which appear to take a very long time and are also opaque. It is because of these systems, that the only popular mechanism inside TRA is that of freezing bank accounts and seizure of assets, which seems like a shortcut to a much deeper problem that needs a permanent fix.

It was in the same vein that traders who found themselves at the loggerhead with the tax authorities called for the overhaul of the tax system especially at customs which allows for human interactions. Traders want a system where they will know from importation the exact amount of tax that they are supposed to pay instead of the current system where officials from the tax authorities make estimates.

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One Response

  1. “I know in TRA they are now celebrating; Kidata is out. He was not loved even by us [politicians] because when a cargo is entered and they ask Kidata to allow for a free entry, he will not allow for the good to pass unless it was taxed.”

    So actually he has been removed for being honest, ethical and law abiding? So even Samia didn’t like that? So even her appointed officials and fellow leaders didn’t like Kidata? I thought Samia will support him but instead she removed him. Tunakoelekea ni kubaya wajameni. Kweli anaupiga mwingi? Tusidanganyane

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