It is always encouraging to hear government officials get excited about reengineering their own processes to become more ‘client-friendly’. This was exactly the feel at yesterday’s Ceylon Chamber Economic Intelligence Unit seminar on the new Inland Revenue Department electronic tax system called ‘RAMIS’ (Revenue Administration Management Information System). At the event, IRD announced that online tax payment will be possible from next month – http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/sri-lanka-to-collect-corporate-taxes-online-from-next-month/
In my opening remarks at the event, I shared with the audience of over 220 participants that taxation now matters for development more than ever before. Sri Lanka’s tax-to-GDP ratio has been on the steady decline, now at a low ebb of under 11%. Our tax system hasn’t kept up with a changing economy – with new sectors arising and new loopholes emerging. At the same time the new government has announced very ambitious revenue targets in the last Budget. On the other hand there are many new business opportunities in the country and ongoing efforts to improve the business climate will boost business dynamism. Having a tax-payer friendly, modern, tax collection system is essentially then to keep with the times. To facilitate business but also encourage tax compliance. For a smart tax administration, technology is a sine-qua-non. Sri Lanka has ranked consistently low on the ‘Paying Taxes’ pillar of the doing business index -http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/sri-lanka?topic=paying-taxes
And so, the new IRD tax system ‘RAMIS’ comes at a welcome time.
Even in the deliberations of the Presidential Commission on taxation (2009), which I worked for, some of the key recommendations related to revenue administration reform and accelerating computerisation.
It’s also encouraging to note that it wasn’t merely a deploying of an IT system, but rather it was accompanied by a whole change management process internally. A reputed Singaporean firm had won the bid to do it.