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Politics | Economy - Development

Lesotho tax collection surpasses expectations

afrol News, 24 November - The Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) contributed 34 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in its first year of operation. Government expectations are by far surpassed. This was achieved through the collection of income tax, value added tax and customs payments from the Southern African Customs Union.

Giving the media a preview of the Lesotho Revenue Authority's (LRA) annual report before its presentation to the National Assembly early next year, Basotho Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Timothy Thahane, said this was only one of the many achievement of the LRA since it became operational in January 2003.

The LRA had collected over Maloti 1,345 million (euro 174 million) in income tax and or sales tax/value added tax in the financial year 2003/2004, exceeding the previous year's collection by 29 percent, according to Minister Thahane.

The Minister presented the surprisingly high tax revenues as good news for the Basotho people, although the country's tax-burdened inhabitants might not agree to that. For the government - which has to rely on national incomes and avoid borrowing funds abroad - this however means that more urgent national tasks can be dealt with.

- Efficient tax collection is very important as it is from such revenue that the great majority of a country's development programmes are achieved, the Basotho Finance Minister explained.

Other benefits that came with the establishment of the Authority had included the simplified processing of goods being brought into the country as compared to the straggling queues that used to form at border posts as people were checked as they came back to Lesotho from shopping in South Africa, Mr Thahane explained.

- We also want to reverse the process of people having to pay vehicle toll levies, then proceed through customs and only at the end go through immigration, the Minister added. "How can you charge a vehicle for coming into the country when it is actually not in as yet?" he asked.

The Lesotho Revenue Authority also released its three year corporate plan, providing organisational policy guidelines and overseeing the Authority's activities to ensure that these adhere to corporate best practices, according to the chairperson of the LRA's governing board, Mrs Lineo Tshabalala.

The Lesotho Revenue Authority was established last year at the advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The aim was to create a larger and more predictable domestic revenue source for the Basotho government, thus stabilising the economy and making it less dependent on foreign aid and borrowing.

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