Zambians now can pay their taxes online
November 11, 2015
|Andrew Karabassis, Managing Director of Costbuild Limited files taxes through the TaxOnline System from the comfort of his own home.
Andrew Karabassis is the Managing Director of Costbuild Limited, a construction company located in Ndola, Zambia. The demanding nature of his business requires him to spend a lot of time on site, leaving little time for Andrew to physically visit Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) offices for his tax matters.
Andrew recollects the challenges he used to face a few months ago as a small taxpayer. “In order for me to submit my Turnover Tax return, I was required to visit ZRA offices and often in multiple trips as there was no integrated tax administration system in place,” says Andrew.
ZRA used to operate a tax administration system which involved lengthy, inaccurate and costly procedures. Taxpayers’ physical presence was required at the Revenue Authority in order to register for taxes, file taxes, obtain information with respect to their individual tax status, and obtain general information on tax policies. Tax officers were faced with an unreliable database during tax reconciliation as they had to refer to several systems including manual systems in order to come up with a tax position. This resulted in inefficiencies in the monitoring, enforcing and processing of taxes.
Like many taxpayers in Zambia, Andrew is now seeing improved service delivery, thanks to the TaxOnline System. Funded by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) with support from the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), the system is expected to increase productivity, efficiency for both the Revenue Authority and businesses in Zambia as well as eliminate the unnecessary need to queue up at the Revenue Authority.
Launched in October 2013, the integrated web based and multi tax system now allows taxpayers to register and file their tax returns electronically. Using the online system, taxpayers now can file their tax returns within 2 hours instead of the previous 15 working days needed to manually capture all the data into the system. The tax types catered through the system include VAT, Income Tax, Pay-As-You-Earn, Presumptive tax, Turnover Tax, Mineral Royalty Tax, Excise, Property Transfer Tax, Medical Levy, Base Tax and Withholding Tax. Through the system, taxpayers are able to register for a Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN), which allows them to access information about their taxes, make queries and track the status of those queries. Additionally, registered taxpayers are able to receive SMS alerts and reminders allowing them to remain compliant.
The system has been rolled out to all taxpayers throughout the country. The electronic service functionalities of the TaxOnline System include e-registration, e-filing, e-tracking, e-amendment and e-dissemination of information. The e-payment feature was recently rolled out to taxpayers. So far, taxpayers banking with Finance Bank are able to make payments online and at ATMs. More banks are expected to come on board by the end of 2014. In addition, ZRA in conjunction with some Mobile service providers are in the process of introducing mobile money payments which will go a long way in improving tax compliance amongst the small taxpayers. The multi-tax system will increase accuracy and efficiency as taxpayers will be dealing with fewer tax officers.
|A Zambia Revenue Authority official (right) explains to a taxpayer the process of registering for taxes online through the TaxOnline System.
As a result of the System, taxpayers can now enjoy the convenience of filing their taxes anytime and anywhere as long as they have access to internet services. As a user of the system since January 2014, acknowledgment of my filed tax returns instantly through the TaxOnline System. I am now also able to access tax literature and filed tax records without having to travel to the Revenue Authority. As long as you’re computer literate, the system is a very straight forward one with no hidden agenda.”
As a part of ZRA’s effort to improve service delivery, a call centre (co-funded by ICF) was established in order to grant taxpayers instant access to an operator for any tax related issue. The ZRA website, which was also launched during the project, will serve as a key tool in keeping taxpayers informed on tax due dates, status of their taxes, as well as regarding any changes in Zambia’s tax law.
Speaking on ZRA’s commitment to serving Zambians, Berlin Msiska, ZRA’s Commissioner General said, “The Zambia Revenue Authority’s vision is to be a world class service organization, recognized as a beacon for excellence, effectiveness, professionalism and efficiency. The introduction of the TaxOnline System, co-funded by Government of the Republic Zambia and ICF is one great step towards achieving that vision.”
While filing a tax return from the comfort of his own home, Andrew commented on the ease of the system: “All user manuals can be found on the ZRA website from how to register electronically to filing online. The manuals are straight forward, fun to read and very informative. It almost felt like I was reading a novel.”
ZRA has also put in place an internet bureau, a space within the ZRA office which allows the taxpayers access to the internet. Taxpayers who have internet connectivity issues or no access to internet are able to process their taxes.
Charles Nakasamu is the Tax Planning and Compliance Manager at Mopani, a mining company in the Copperbelt. He has been using the TaxOnline System since October 2013. Talking about the system, he commented “The system is well designed and lives up to its expectations. For me jumping aboard on the TaxOnline System has been the best decision yet.”
By August 2014, 57% of all registered taxpayers filed their tax returns online. So far, 1997 external stakeholders have been trained on the TaxOnline System in use of e-services such as registering for taxes online, signing up, e-filing, e-tracking, e-amendment and many other e-services on the web portal.