Tax administrations in the region are faced with emerging challenges such as gender inclusion, climate change and low capacity to digitalise processes even as they struggle with low revenue collection caused by the impacts of COVID-19.
At the end of the Pacific Islands Tax Administrators Association two-day annual conference on August 23, heads of tax administrations agreed on the need to increase regional collaboration and partnerships with development partners, to address these emerging tax challenges.
“There has been an increase in discussions with international bodies in the midst of growing interest in the Pacific for future engagement for the Pacific region and opportunities for PITAA members,” PITAA chairperson, George Mow said.
“And with the challenge of joining international forums and implementing global stands we must continue to engage with the relevant bodies to ensure that members are aware of their obligations and more importantly provide a platform where members can voice their concerns and pragmatically start to address any commitments we make.”
According to a presentation from International Monetary Fund Senior Economist, Vincent de Paul Koukpaizan, the Asia Pacific ranked the lowest in terms of the percentage of women working in tax administrations at 25 per cent.
IMF also predicted that climate change will impact revenue collection in low income and developing economies, with annual adaptation costs exceeding one percent of their GDPs in the next 10 years.
“What is important is that no country is left behind in terms of tax reforms and implementing necessary digital developments so that they improve compliance, customer engagement and service,” PITAA Head of Secretariat, Koni Ravono said. “As a region, we have been able to help each other by sharing experiences and knowledge on what works and what doesn’t. We must be mindful that because of the various sizes of tax administrations, one size doesn’t fit all.”
Heads of tax administrations from Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Niue, and Solomon Islands also shared their knowledge and experiences at the conference.
Fiji Revenue and Customs Service Director of Taxation, Momina Beg, keynote speaker at the conference, said the digital transformation of the organisation, which started in 2019 helped cushioned some of the impacts of COVID-19.
“The New Tax Information System (NTIS) not only facilitated the self- assessment regime for Fiji but made complying with tax reporting or payment – faster, easier and more convenient for our taxpayers,” Ms Beg said. “So far, FRCS was able to achieve maximum 97 percent online filing for all tax types live in NTIS, and more than 55 percent payments were received through online platform. The online platform made it convenient for taxpayers to request for time to pay arrangements or waiver of penalty in this difficult timeframe. On the other hand, we found new ways of working – working from home with the new online platform which would be near impossible without this digital transformation.”
Representatives of Inter-Americans Center of Tax Administrations, African Tax Administration Forum, Revenue Statistics Division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, Tax Inspectors Without Borders, Australian Taxation Office, International Monetary Fund, Asia Pacific Group for Money Laundering and the Asian Development Bank were also part of the conference sharing international best practices also providing technical advice when needed.