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GRA urges Gambians to stop buying water, drinks without tax stamp

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By Omar Bah

The Commissioner General of the Gambia Revenue Authority, Yankuba Darboe, has urged Gambians to stop buying water and beverage productions without the digital tax stamp.

In January, the GRA introduced the digital tax excise stamp, a digitally encoded marker that is affixed to products to verify their authenticity and traceability to increase efficiency in revenue mobilisation. The stamp contains unique identifiers such as QR codes or RFID tags. However, the introduction of the stamp has received resistance from some businesses but according to the GRA that narrative is changing following a meeting held with importers and producers last week.

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Last Thursday, Commissioner General Yankuba Darboe accompanied by his deputy Essa Jallow and senior GRA functionaries embarked on an industrial tour to gauge the rate of compliance with the digital tax stamp.

The delegation visited Bell Beverage Company at Bonto in Kombo East and Gambega.

At both places, the delegation had fruitful meetings with the companies’ executives.

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During the meeting in Bonto, CG Darboe buttressed the significance of the digital excise stamp to the growth prospects of local industries, the country’s revenue generation efforts and national development.

The Bell Company Managing Director Manoj Kumar informed the delegation that the company was doing its best in ensuring compliance with the digital tax stamp regime.

“I want to assure the GRA that my company would always adhere to the laws of the land,” he said.

The Commissioner General Darboe said the introduction of the digital excise stamp will protect the country’s local industries to promote employment creation and revenue generation.

“We are doing this because different bottles have made their way into supermarkets due to the porous nature of the country’s land borders so the digital excise stamp is introduced to distinguish smuggled products from taxed goods. It also ensures accountability, transparency and compliance with tax laws,” he said. Mr Darboe said GRA doesn’t have the capacity to police everywhere, regarding excisable products.

“We cannot increase tax but we want to broaden the tax base. We are trying to stop tax avoidance. The digital tax stamp would reduce tax evasion due to under-declaration,” he said.

CG Darboe said with the stamp, the GRA is able to know the volume of importation and production to be able to ascertain declarations made by businesses.

“Before the introduction of the digital tax stamp businesses used to do their own declarations and the authority was unable to ascertain these declarations so it comes with a lot of editing and background checks but all that has been addressed by the tax stamp,” he said.

CG Darboe said the government has no intention of going after businesses.

“We just want to ensure that we collect the right taxes and all that the business community needs to do is respect the laws. We should all work together to lay the foundation for the future generation because we cannot continue to rely on loans and grants to develop this country,” he stated.

He said the government’s idea is to rely on monies generated locally like other developing and developed countries.

“We have all the required manpower and intellects to transform this country,” he said.

The production manager of Bell Company, Seedia Jadama, expressed his company’s commitment to respect all laws governing taxation in the country.

“We are the biggest manufacturer of beverages and we are ready to comply. I think everybody should be police to aid compliance with the digital tax stamp. I think all Gambians should stand by their local industries,” he added.

He urged the government to proffer measures to protect local industries from Senegalese industries.

“It is not fair for Senegalese goods to be allowed in The Gambia and ours are not allowed to cross the border. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If the Senegalese government can protect their industries, we can also do it,” he stated.

Gambega

The Gambega bottling company started using the digital tax stamp in April. The company’s managing director Antonio Gueri said business companies should endeavour to pay their taxes and embrace government policies to help develop the country. To demonstrate its commitment, the company is currently using manpower to install the stamp on its production ahead of the arrival of a machine expected this week.

“It shows that Gambega is very passionate about the development of this country. The taxes we pay contribute to health, education, infrastructure and other aspects of development,” he said.

He advised Gambega to establish a factory and start producing in The Gambia.

“I can assure you that we will give you the required protection to operate. We will ensure that we clampdown on all those smuggling goods into the country without the tax stamp,” he said.

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