(2nd part of interview)

Sudhamo Lal, director general, Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA), went on to speak to AfricaMoney of how electronic filing is becoming universal for individual taxpayers. He detailed the smart applications facility launched by the agency and stated that 70% of taxpayers are expected to use this mode for e-filing this year. Our financial expert also exhorted salaried taxpayers to take advantage of the new Form 1A to declare all their income.

  • MRA has recently launched the e-filing through smart applications facility. Please advise how users can expect to benefit from this new development…

Since the launching of e-filing facilities for individual taxpayers in 2007, the MRA has continuously improved the quality and variety of electronic services offered. While only 1,500 electronic returns from individual taxpayers were sent to MRA in 2007; last year MRA received more than 117,000 electronic individual income tax returns, representing around 90% of the total number of individual returns received. We can now safely say that electronic filing is universal for individual taxpayers.

The introduction, this year, of e-filing facilities to users of electronic mobile devices, goes in line with MRA’s Mission to continually modernise revenue administration. With this facility, the users of smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices connected to the Internet will be able to access an interactive, html-based Income Tax Form which takes less time to load.

Instead of the traditional electronic, PDF-based form, the taxpayer will be prompted with a series of questions which will determine very quickly his tax liabilities. He will then be able to save a draft, print and preview the form before the final submission to the MRA.

By registering for MRA’s electronic services, taxpayers will also get a pre-filled return and benefit from enhanced modes of payment. Another new service offered to taxpayers this year is the possibility to pay individual income taxes through credit cards up to a maximum tax payable of Rs 25,000, with the MRA bearing the annexed charges of this electronic transaction.

[blockquote style=”2″]“We are now giving an opportunity to primary and secondary school teachers to include their private tuition income in the 1A Income Tax Form itself.”[/blockquote]

  • In terms of likely users, how many taxpayers are expected to migrate to the smart applications facility?

Although the new facility was developed so that it is portable on any platform and device like iPad, Mac and smartphones, the fact that it is more user friendly is bound to make it popular even among habitual Windows-based PC users. As per current statistics, 70% of taxpayers are choosing this mode for e-filing this year. Its popularity is also bound to increase as tablets and smartphones have already become the most common mobile computing devices.

  • Form 1A has been amended to let employees with other source of revenues to declare them easily. Can you comment on the implications of this amendment from a user perspective?

In preceding years, we have received complaints from taxpayers that the 1A Income Tax Form did not include relevant fields for them to declare their non-salary income. Our position at that time was that Form 1A was reserved for those taxpayers deriving exclusively emoluments income and that any person deriving a mix of emoluments and non-emoluments income should file the 01 Income Tax Return Form.

However, with a view to facilitating tax compliance, the MRA has reconsidered its stand on this issue. We are now giving an opportunity to primary and secondary school teachers to include their private tuition income in the 1A Income Tax Form itself. Similarly, salaried taxpayers in the public and private sector, in receipt of other types of income, such as rent, may also declare the same in their 1A return.

I must also say that the amendment to the 1A Form also stems from several cases of non-declaration of “other income” by salaried taxpayers. In fact, every year data matching between income tax returns and MRA’s third party information database reveal that many salary earners were in receipt of “other income” but were not declaring same. As a result, these taxpayers had to settle relatively high tax bills comprising of undeclared tax as well as penalties and interest. I trust that salaried taxpayers will now take advantage of the new revised 1A Income Tax Form to declare all their income and avoid payment of penalties and interest.

  • Can you tell us more about the Free Income Tax Assistance (FITA) campaign to be run in 17 regions in Mauritius and Rodrigues on the 29th and 30th March 2014?

The Free Income Tax Assistance Campaign (FITA) is an activity that the MRA organises every year in order to assist taxpayers in filling their individual income tax forms and paying their taxes in the centres identified for the organisation of this event. In 2013, the MRA provided assistance to some 6,500 taxpayers during this campaign in the 17 FITA centres.

The objective of this activity is to come closer to the taxpayers in an attempt to cater for those who may find it difficult to come to MRA’s head office to file their returns and pay their taxes. During this campaign some 100 MRA officers will be working in the 17 centres scattered around the island, including Rodrigues, and will provide assistance from 8.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to taxpayers visiting those centres.

I wish to underline that the MRA will provide IT equipment and internet access facilities in all these 17 centres, to enable taxpayers to file their individual income tax forms electronically.

Image (MRA): Sudhamo Lal, director general, Mauritius Revenue Authority, highlighted that e-filing is becoming universal for individual taxpayers, with more than 117,000 electronic individual income tax returns received in 2013.

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