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Sierra Leone News: NRA to crackdown on illegal cigarettes imports

“Smuggling is an illegal and underground activity, which destroys the economy,” said Commissioner of Domestic Tax Department (DTD), Ibrahim Sorie Kamara. They are now enforcing post-importation audits in a massive crackdown on shops and companies suspected of selling smuggled cigarettes.
The National Revenue Authority (NRA) said it is part of their strategy to curb smuggling amid indications that some brands of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages were being smuggled influencing the loss of much needed revenue.
Responding to questions, Commissioner DTD, Kamara said that with the enactment of the Finance Act of 2017 they have been experiencing a boost on excise duty on cigarettes.
“We have intelligence that people are bringing in cigarettes that are not going through the proper channels. We will start arresting people that are bringing in brands that are not declared at the ports,” he warned.
“The laws are there. We will implement the legal operation to settle the tax evasion.” This is affecting those who come through the legal channel, declare and pay taxes. The others who try to beat the system come in with their goods and sell at a lower price, thereby out selling those that go through the normal procedure.
The late passing of the Act, he said, posed so many challenges for them, when it came out they had to prepare the ground for implementation. “If you are going to pass a law to collect a new tax you have to make sure that the enabling environment is there.”
The systems and procedures should be enforced with the available manpower, so they require at least three months for them to effectively start implementation.
The NRA will be putting in place several measures to curb smuggling and these include post-importation audits, which will be done to verify whether imported goods were properly cleared for Customs purposes.
Commissioner Kamara implored people to report cases of smuggling as they continue to spread the message that where tax and duty corruption is perpetrated, the State is defrauded of revenue for illegal personal gain.
“We saw the hike in taxes after the law was implemented. We also projected some revenue loss because of the border porosity and under declarations. We are still working and going by the law and see how much we can get out of these revenue handles consistent with what the law stipulates,” said Commissioner Kamara.
By Zainab Joaque
Friday December 22, 2017.

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