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Foreign advisers in customs, poor tax payment culture hurt economy

KABUL: Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) on Tuesday said that presence of foreign advisers in customs and the reluctance of major companies to pay taxes are not letting the national economy to grow.

Deputy Chief of ACCI, Khan Jan Alikozai, in a day-long seminar held in the Ministry of Finance said that resistance culture of entrepreneurs to pay taxes and presence of advisers from neighboring countries in the customs had created many challenges for the Afghan traders.

He said that local companies with average business deals are discouraged and do not pay taxes when they notice that big transit companies did not want to promote the tax culture.

While not providing the exact details, Alikozai said that advisers from neighboring countries created administrative challenges for the traders, because they don’t want to allow the Afghan economy to improve.

Asking the government to fight corruption in the customs, he said that presence of some retired Afghan officials in custom departments in the capital as well as in the provinces is promoting the culture of graft.

“Due to complicated procedure and bureaucratic hurdles it takes at least fourth months to renew a license. Goods are stranded at the ports due to this tiresome procedure of customs. Moreover, there are some foreign or foreign-linked big transit companies such as ‘Supreme’ that do not pay taxes and hurt businesses in Afghanistan. Companies that failed to pay taxes, their cases are in the Attorney General Office,” he said.

Alikozai urged the government to modernize the tax payment system in order to eliminate corruption.

Deputy Minister for customs, Gul Maqsod Saqib, brushed aside concerns of the ACCI and said that there were a number of foreign advisers in the past, but at present there is no foreigner at the custom departments. “The foreign advisers are not allowed to work in the customs, because the custom and financial affairs are kept secret. However, we will take notice of the issue to know whether there is any foreign adviser working in the customs or not,” he said.

He added that no one is allowed to escape from the tax collection process but taxes are collected from all companies according to the law. However, the deputy minister accepted the bitter reality that some people were not paying the amount in taxes that had to be paid.

Saqib said that all such companies should be tracked and would not be allowed to pay less tax while implementing laws in letter and spirit and introducing new modern system for tax collection. There are around 2,000 companies that have not provided details about assets to the ministry.

The acting director of the revenues department Najeebullah Ahmadzai acknowledged that there were some challenges in tax collection procedure.

He said that they held a joint meeting with traders to find out and resolve the problems. Poor capacity of the tax collection officers and other staffers was one of the major problems that he pointed out.

Head of the Noman Parwan Trading Company (NPTC), Zikria Baryalai, said that loopholes in the tax law should be taken as a serious issue. He proposed that tax collection process should be modernized to end corruption but as per requirements of Afghans because the current system was copied from US and European countries. (Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi)

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