The two bills are aimed at boosting tax revenue by minimizing exemptions that, according to estimates, cost the nation between 1.4tr/- and 2.1tr/- in lost revenue.
The importance of the two bills comes from the fact that the government is still reliant on foreign aid to fund its budget while it is struggling to increase collection of domestic revenue due to loopholes that lead to losses of a vast amount of revenue through tax evasion, capital flight and tax exemptions.
The intention of the government is clear. It acknowledges the challenges in collection of revenue and declares to implement policy decisions aimed at increasing both tax and non-tax revenue as well as plugging off the loopholes.
Already some quarters are warmed up for discussions on the intention on tax exemptions and its wider implication to economic activities, investments and in general the growth of economy.
We understand concerns that the exemptions may be too high for a country that is struggling to collect sufficient resources to finance its budget.
And we believe that our country would be better off if fewer tax exemptions were granted and more money was spent on health services, water or education.
We also understand there are misconceptions on the issue of tax exemptions particularly allegations that the government is too generous to large investors by providing them with unjustified exemptions through Tanzania Investment Centre.
The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Investments and Empowerment), Dr Mary Nagu, explained in Parliament in June that large investors do pay taxes and the amount of exemptions granted to them was little. She provided data to support her arguments.
Exemptions granted to investors through Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) amounted to 290bn/- or 19 per cent of the total amount of exemptions which reached 1.4tr/- in 2013.
From 2005 to 2010 exemptions through TIC amounted to 88.8bn/- or five per cent only of total amount of exemptions. The Minister said survey showed that the exemptions to investors through TIC were beneficial to the economy and the nation at large.
We therefore think it is important that these discussions and next week debates in Parliament should be done in a way that it will benefit the nation.
Members of Parliament should do us justice by prioritizing national interests in the debates. We hope and pray they will also do enough research on the matter so that they become well informed, sober and impartial.
We do not like to see that we make decisions that are going to be counter-productive in terms of affecting the flow of investments that are necessary in increasing revenue, job creation and spurring growth.