THE Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) has committed to enhancing their client-centric approach in the next five years, as the agency seeks to collect taxes more efficiently to ensure the growth of the economy.
In its strategic plan for the 2014 – 2019 period, which contrasts with the previous three-year time spans, the revenue collector outlines its response to “the dire need to provide funding required to grow the economy, while minimising the cost of compliance to the client and minimising the cost of collecting that revenue”.
It further notes that the attainment of the government’s National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) is beset with challenges owing to the uncertainty surrounding South African Customs Union (SACU) revenues and downward risks for the textile sector in light of the expiry this year of the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
“Continued growth in confrontation with the challenges that Lesotho faces, is significantly premised on her ability to collect revenue that shall be able to sustain developmental efforts even in unfavourable economic times,” reads the strategic plan.
It also identified the current exchange rate between the Loti and US dollar, which is at over M11, saying it is impacting negatively on capital costs of the mining industry, “which may deter growth in production capacity of existing mines, and postpone new investment in new mining operations”.
According to LRA Commissioner General Thabo Letjama, the strategic plan is a continuation of the “taxpayer-centric” approach the agency adopted in 2007.
“This plan builds on the solid foundation that we built in 2007 when we started the taxpayer centricity journey as the LRA,” said Mr Letjama.
“It further aims to consolidate all our efforts since then, for us to be able to build a delightful taxpayer compliance experience.
“We have decided to move from an organisation that designs services and consults taxpayers and stakeholders for their support, to an organisation that understands the needs of the taxpayers and stakeholders and respond by designing solutions that meet the client’s needs and surpasses their expectations.”
He said the new approach would be a “huge paradigm shift from the way we do business currently”.
“It requires us to have an understanding of what it takes to serve taxpayers in this new way and requires us to invest in the necessary skills and capabilities to sustain this commitment,” Mr Letjama said.
“It also requires us to build our capability and capacity to engage with, and work jointly with, all our clients in development and implementation of solutions to compliance problems.”
In implementing the strategic plan, the LRA has set out to address medium term and long-term “critical issues” through specific action programmes.
Among the medium term issues is the need to modernise the LRA’s processes and systems. In line with its Customs Modernisation Programme, the authority has set out to re-design and automate customs procedures through the implementation of the Asycuda customs border control system. Tax processes would also be automated through the Oracle Tax system as part of efforts to modernise the system.
The LRA also intends to develop and implement staff capacity building and retention programmes as well as to develop a culture of accountability throughout the organisation among other objectives.
The long-term objectives include working to ensure relevant policies and legislation are updated in line with changing times, the development and implementation of an integrated border management strategy as well as developing a
strategy for new markets and for the informal sector among others.
Mr Letjama also said the agency would also relentlessly address noncompliance to ensure that taxpayers meet their obligations