THE Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) has secured an undisclosed funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for support in its plans to introduce an electronic taxation (E-tax) system in the country.
Once in place, the electronic platform will enable taxpayers to file their tax returns online among other functions. This will significantly reduce the costs of tax compliance many taxpayers incur under the manual system currently in operation.
In an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times this week, the Commissioner General of LRA Thabo Khasipe said that having secured funding, the process of introducing the electronic system will soon commence. He said they would also capacitate their staff with the requisite skills to handle the new system.
“The introduction of an efficient electronic self-service delivery mechanism is going to be a key strategic priority. As indicated, the taxpayer is going to be at the center of all our initiatives. To that end, we have already secured funding from the African Development Bank for the introduction of an E-Taxation system,” he said.
Mr Khasipe further explained that LRA was conscious of the importance of project sequencing to avoid cost overruns and failure to meet intended outcomes. “As such, we intend to start now with stabilizing and enhancing our current IT Systems and capacitating our staff with appropriate skills.”
He said, once the preliminary steps have been finalized, LRA will then roll-out a single window IT platform, which will enable taxpayers to not only file their tax returns online but also to transact and interact with the authority online.
With these systems in place, Mr Khasipe said they will minimize face-to-face contact with taxpayers as they would be able to manage their own tax affairs independently online.
“We will be following what is now standard practice in the banking sector. Our ultimate goal is to render the tax return unnecessary as it will be replaced by a single taxpayer account. This account will be automatically populated by third party taxpayer information from such third parties as banks, government, employers and insurance companies,” Mr Khasipe said.
That way, he said, when the taxpayer logs into their single window tax account, they will find their tax return that is already filled with information from their bank, insurance company and others.
“Theirs would be to just make necessary corrections, add more information and then submit and pay their liability right there in the system. This way, tax compliance will become the default option and therefore easier.”
Mr Khasipe also said apart from the e-taxation measures, the LRA also intends to explore other innovative digital delivery mechanisms such as mobile phone platforms while creating other innovations that are non-digital to service other segments of their clientele.
“We are looking at the rural and senior taxpayer segments who may not be able or willing to adopt computer or digital systems to engage with us, we will be creating multiple alternative platforms such as physical service centers and call centers to also cater for them.”