The program will be open for a period of 3 months from today
Ezulwini – Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg, has officially launched a tax debt relief programme. Making his remarks at the Eswatini Revenue Services (ERS) Boardroom during a media briefing, Rijkenberg said the increase in tax arrears is a concern for the ERS and government.
“There are efforts to contain the increase that has averaged 25.1 per cent per year, increasing from E2.419 billion in 2015/16 to E9.369 billion in 2021/22. Exactly a month ago, we gathered in this building to officially launch the new Eswatini Revenue Service’s brand; and during the launch I made a commitment that the ERS would develop a Tax Debt Relief Programme meant to assist taxpayers who find themselves with debts that are very difficult to repay. As a Ministry we are aware that the prevailing economic conditions are making it even more difficult for most businesses and all persons to contribute to the fiscus through payment of taxes.”
He added, “This is more complicated for those who are contending with debts with the ERS, particularly due to penalties and escalating interest. I am happy to announce that the ERS has finalized the tax debt relief programme. This programme shall provide relief on interest and penalties having considered taxpayers’ different circumstances. As mentioned last month during the launch, whilst we empathize with those taxpayers who have heavy debts, as a Ministry we cannot absolve any taxpayer from paying the principal tax debt.”
According to the legislator, this programme is available to all taxpayers with outstanding tax liabilities as at 31st March 2022. Some of the guidelines of the programme include that the program will be open for a period of three months as from today and taxpayers are expected to pay the principal debt or make a payment arrangement to liquidate the principal debt and thereafter have the interest and penalties waived.
During this programme, all taxpayers who enrol for this programme are expected to fully comply with all tax obligations. Any taxpayer who fails to meet these conditions will be disqualified from the programme and all outstanding taxes including all penalties and interest become due and payable.
“Details of the programme have been made available by the ERS and taxpayers are encouraged to enrol. May I request all taxpayers who have tax debts to seize this opportunity; which in my view is a really good “TAX DEAL” which will alleviate the heavy burden that some are enduring,” he said.
The minister continued to highlight that in 2021 the recovery in the domestic economy was faster than anticipated at 5.9 per cent compared to an earlier projection of 1.4 per cent. This follows a challenging year in 2020 where growth was a negative 1.9 per cent as impacted by slow economic activity and the COVID -19 pandemic. The effect of this has been felt both by the fiscus and the ordinary liSwati.
In the medium term, growth is expected to average 2.9 per cent for the local economy with an anticipated growth of 2.4 per cent in 2022. This projection still has a number of downside risks that are a function of developments in the world economy and internal challenges and further may not be sufficient enough to reverse the negative outcomes of the preceding years. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with other economic and social disturbances weigh on current and future growth prospects.
These challenges continue to threaten the country’s ability to maintain tax revenue mobilisation goals. As a result, domestic revenue collection in 2021/22 were 10 per cent below estimates which was about E1.235 billion. In line with the weaker than expected revenue collection, domestic taxes to GDP ratio has declined by 0.3 percentage points in 2021/22 to reach 14.9 per cent. Tax arrears also increased by 29 per cent to E9.369 billion from E7.262 billion in 2020/21.