By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Economic experts and policy researchers say the digitalization of the tax procedure is one of the several factors that will help improve Cameroon’s score and ranking in the Doing Business report published by the World Bank.
These experts were speaking on August 24 at the Muna Foundation in Yaounde during the fourth debate organized by the Nkafu Policy Institute on the theme: “The improvement of Cameroon’s tax payment ranking lies in the digitalization of procedures.”
Moderating the debate was Dr Steve Tametong, Governance and Democracy Fellow at the Nkafu Policy Institute with Olivier Dang Attouh, Economist, argued for while Florentin Zouga Kouna, Associate Policy researcher/Consultant argued against.
According to Olivier Dang Attouh, in his arguments as to why tax digitalization for the improvement of Cameroon’s score and ranking said: “digitalization is inevitable. We are all moving towards that. It makes everything traceable and protects data.”
On his part, Florentin Zouga Kouna, stated categorically that: “E-commerce is a niche the state could very well explore when it comes to the imposition of taxes and digitalization would be the ideal solution to this.”
“It is not the tax increase that is holding back reporting and payment, but the fact that sometimes many decide to invest in areas that they are completely unfamiliar with.”
“The fake information plays a very big role in the reluctance noted in the declaration and payment of taxes. Many entrepreneurs are unaware of the procedures and tax rates imposed by the state. This is a real obstacle,” Zouga Kouna added.
According to a concept note by the Nkafu Policy Institute, the 2020 Doing Business Report published by the World Bank indicates that Cameroon has made some progress on the various components of the “paying taxes” indicator. For example, the number of hours necessary to pay taxes went from 1300 hours in 2007 to 624 hours in 2020. Despite the aforementioned progress and reforms, the country went from the 143rd position in 2007 to 181st in 2020, which shows that the country’s position has somewhat deteriorated.
Since 2016, the introduction of online declarations has improved taxpayer loyalty, with the rate of timely declarations approaching 100 per cent at the DGE. However, it seemed difficult to isolate the impact of the digitalization of tax procedures from other tax policy and administration reforms that affect the performance of the DGI, such as tax audits.
Cameroon is the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a region experiencing an economic crisis triggered by the steep fall in oil prices. Along with its CEMAC partners, Cameroon has therefore had to put fiscal adjustment measures in place to adjust to the terms of trade shock and restore macro-stability and confidence in the common currency.
The World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum, issued in April 2017, notes that if Cameroon is to become an upper-middle-income country by 2035, it will have to increase productivity and unleash the potential of its private sector.
To Francis Tazoacha, Director of Peace and Security at the Nkafu Policy Institute said: “The state must make sure that taxes are paid and paid with ease. We as citizens need to support the government by paying our taxes dutifully. This is the gateway to the change we all expect in our country.”
“The state should wake up from the state of inertial. The state must put things in a level-playing form that no one will be hurt most. The state should also move along with the changing forces of time like that of digitalization.”
“If other countries have developed in terms of digitalization of tax procedures, we too must do the same. The country cannot do this alone and they must use other avenues to see to it that this comes to fruition,” He added.