National Dialogue on the Role of Civil Society Organisations in Championing Tax Awareness and Tax Education in Rwanda

Governance for Africa (GFA) in partnership with Rwanda Revenue Authority hosted National Dialogue on the Role of Civil Society Organisations in Championing Tax Awareness and Tax Education in Rwanda on 15th October 2019.

(L)Commissioner General of RRA, (R) CEO of Governance for Africa at the conference.

Opening Remarks
• Cyrus Nkusi (CEO of Governance for Africa)

GFA-CEO welcomed guests and participants who were present in the conference and emphasized the need to hold the conference and why it was organized. He thanked Rwanda Revenue Authority for their partnership in organizing the conference and he added that it is important for different stakeholders to sit together and discuss on ways to advance tax awareness and tax education in Rwanda. He stressed that “taxation matters are issues that concern everyone including the Civil Society Organisations because taxes are at the heart of any nation’s development.” He concluded by saying that “with our partners, we will keep organizing activities that build the capacity of civil society organizations that work on tax and governance and justice for a prosperous Africa. And that Governance for Africa looks forward to team up with Rwanda Revenue Authority for capacity building, awareness and policy formulation to champion tax awareness and tax education in Rwanda. He introduced Mr. Justus Kangwagye from Rwanda Governance Board.’

  • Justus Kangwagye (Head of political parties and Civil Society Organisations department, Rwanda Governance Board)

Mr. Justus started by thanking the organisers of the conference and all the participants at the conference and also mentioned the importance of holding such a conference that brings together Civil Society Organisations and Government institutions because they all play a part in building the country. He said that since before colonialism, the Civil Society has existed and contributed so much to development, However, at some point they changed their agenda but fortunately in Rwanda, Civil Society Organisations are doing what should be done and this conference was and indicator of that. Justus said that “there are many Civil Society Organisations and their role in development is recognized by the Government, if we keep working together there is no doubt, we will drive our country to the development we will all want.”

Mr. Justus Kangwagye invited the guest of honor to officially open the workshop.

  • Pascal Bizimana Ruganintwari (Commissioner General, Rwanda Revenue Authority)

 

Commissioner General started by thanking civil society organisations for taking action on fighting illicit financial flows in Rwanda. He said “I thank the organisers of this important workshop. In recent years, there has been a global fight on IFFs, Rwanda has not been left behind through Rwanda Revenue Authority in partnership with civil society organization and private sector.” He concluded by saying that “Rwanda will continue to implementation of SDG and Agenda 2063 as a way of ending illicit financial flows on the continent and globally. I officially declare this workshop open.

Presentation: Tax Structures in Rwanda by Aimable Kayigi (Commissioner for Domestic taxes department)

The presentation briefed the participants on the history of Taxes in from pre-colonial era till today. It navigated different types of taxes in Rwanda and showed tax collection and tax contribution to the national budget in the last six years. Mr. Aimable presented how RRA has modernized and introduced reforms over the years like introduction of the E-Tax system, introduction of Electronic Billing Machine (EBM) and trade facilitation Northern and Central corridor integration projects.

Presentation: Tax Awareness and Education by Drocella Mukashyaka (Deputy Commissioner in charge of Tax payer services)

This presentation explained how Rwanda Revenue Authority has established a relationship with tax payers (citizens) and its outreach programs. Ms. Drocella stressed the importance of the workshop and emphasized that its one of the outreach methods by RRA to meet target groups and in this case, it was the Civil Society Organisations. She said that the research done showed that the biggest number of tax payers pay taxes on their own will which is a commendable achievement. Ms. Drocella also informed the participants that October was a tax payer’s month and different outreach activities had been organized. Lastly, she presented different methods through which RRA interacts with tax payers including hotlines, social media, TV and Radio shows and Youth led clubs across the country.

Panel discussion: The role of CSOs in Taxation (Moderator, James Munyaneza)

Panelists discussing the role of CSOs in Taxation

 

  • Agnes Kanyangeyo (Deputy Commissioner, RRA)

Asked why it has taken long for RRA to work with CSOs, Ms. Agnes said that “Although it has taken long, this was the right time for the cooperation. Much has been done and maybe the cooperation did not come sooner but it is an important achievement that it was now being established and it will live to last with many positive impacts”

Ms. Agnes said that if all tax payers paid their taxes accordingly then the taxes would also get lower.

  • Dr. Ryarasa Joseph Nkurunziza (Chairperson, Rwanda Civil Society Platform)

Dr. Joseph talked about the role of CSOs in championing tax awareness and education. He said that different organisations have been involved in matters related to budget and taxation; he also noted that the partnership with RRA will allow CSOs to advocate more on tax awareness and education.

  • Justus Kangwagye (Head of political parties and Civil Society Organisations department, Rwanda Governance Board)

Mr. Justus emphasized the role of CSOs in taxation and awareness by saying that CSOs play a big role because they work for the community and have a good relationship with citizens. Also the approach of CSOs working in cooperation with the government as this conference was an evidence proves that CSOs are in the right direction towards contributing to the country’s development.

Panel discussion: Taxation and Human rights (Moderator, Kwizera John Bosco)

Muhongerwa Furaha (Commissioner, National commission of Human rights)

Ms. Furaha said that taxation is linked to human rights and is very essential because human rights should be realized and taxation is one way through which they can be realized. Asked if there was a research on realization of human rights through taxation, she said that that research has not been conducted but it is now an assignment for the National Human Rights Commission to Consider.

  • Andrews Kananga (Executive Director, Legal Aid Forum)

Mr. Andrews said that in order to realize human rights, financial support is needed and this financial support comes primarily from taxation. He was answering a question on the link between taxation and human rights.

He also said that in order for taxation to be effective, there is need for accountability, transparency and involvement of citizens. This is why it was important for CSOs to be engaged by RRA on tax awareness and education.

  • Drocella Mukashyaka (Deputy Commissioner in charge of Tax payer services)

Ms. Drocella said that a new law has eased fines in the event one misses deadline to pay tax. Instead of facing a 60% fine immediately, the new law provides for different layers of penalties starting with 10% then 20% to 60%. This was a response on a question about what RRA is doing to help tax payers as well as enabling them to attain human rights.

 RECOMMENDATIONS

During the conference, participants gave their ideas and recommendations which they think will enhance tax awareness and education. These include:

▪ Different participants including the Chairman of Rwanda Civil Society Platform recommended that RRA should works with CSOs in implementing tax awareness and education programmes because CSOs have established communication channels with citizens which can enable awareness and education to run smoothly.

▪ Participants recommended that RRA should offer capacity building to CSOs in regards to taxation. This will help CSOs to also provide education to the citizens.

▪ strengthening the capacity of the CSOs network on taxation and illicit financial flows in Rwanda. This network is the channel where all matters related to taxation go through and its strengthening will enable CSOs that work on taxation be more active.

▪ Participants also commended RRA and Governance for Africa (GFA) recommended that GFA should take the lead to keep engaging other CSOs on matters related to taxation.