The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Tuesday, 4th April, 2023 debated and passed into law, the Bill entitled: ‘The Finance Act 2023″, for the economic growth and development of Sierra Leone.

The Bill seeks to provide for the imposition and alteration of taxes, to give effect to the financial proposals of the-Government and to provide for related matters for the Financial Year 2023.

Presenting the Bill to Parliament, the Minister of Finance, Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura said the Bill is predicated on the Government’s commitment to domestic revenue mobilization, in light of improving economic aspirations, payment of salaries and building confidence in growth amidst multiple crises across the world.
The Minister told Parliament that the purpose of the Bill is to support the Government’s efforts to improve domestic revenue collection of various taxes that have no adverse effect on the welfare of the vulnerable people.

Speaking further, the Minister told MPs that the Bill is set to introduce minimum alternative on taxes, restore taxes on aviation, and GST on plant machinery equipment amongst many others. He comprehensively highlighted several important aspects of the Bill.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee in Parliament, Hon Francis Amara Kai-Samba used the opportunity to reiterate their functions, in light of law-making. He emphasized on the purposes and importance of the Bill. The MP went on to say, the Bill when approved would cushion the economy through the responsibilities and activities of the National Revenue Authority (NRA). He asked colleague MPs to enact the Bill into law, to close tax mobilization leakages and many tax exemptions.

“The Bill is of no mistake,” he said and asked the House not to raise concern on the time of arrival of the document.

Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara said at a time like this, Government should not raise taxes and went on to raise concerns over the certain imposition of taxes. On tax surrounding aviation, the MP said Sierra Leone is the most expensive country to travel, relative to the cost of air tickets. According to him, compatriots are traveling through a neighbouring country, in light of paying alternative low cost of air tickets. He expressed pessimism over the Bill, adding that, soon there would be drop in the mobilization of revenue.

He alleged that there is an exemption on taxation on foreign diplomats at Lungi International Airport, but Sierra Leoneans with diplomatic passports are asked to pay. Referring to taxation, on tourism, he said the internal hotel has promoted the economies of other countries, and added that such taxes would affect the ordinary people. He reiterated that every year, the Government adds taxes, but inflation and economic burden continue unabated.

Hon. Hindolo Moimo Ngevao said the Bill is not contentious and Government development is predicated on taxation. He referred to the calculated Government developments and transformations and insisted that, it is only through taxation the State would achieve growth. He used the opportunity to advise the Minister and NRA Commissioner-General to be considerate with tax levied on buyers of properties.

He decried the previous speaker on the payment of taxes by the holders of diplomatic passports, adding he has never paid for such a tax at the airport. He also lauded the tax percentage levied on tourism and alluded that, the Bill is appropriate and would support the Government to annex developments.

Hon. Dr. Mark-Mahmoud Kaloko said to run a State, required resources, but raised concern that it is spelled in the Constitution that the sovereignty belongs to the people and their interest must be considered. “Tax mobilization is prudent, but the interest of the people is very paramount,” he stated. The MP made mentioned of ordinary citizens holding passports and paying high taxes at the airport. He insisted to appeal for some reduction of certain taxation on the people. “No Sierra Leonean is against tax mobilization, but due consideration be made,” he concluded. He urged the House to approve the document with positive amendments.
Hon. Muniru Lansana described the Bill as an important document, in light of several tax exemptions, especially for goods meant for persons living with disability as well as ordinary compatriots.

Hon. Mohamed Lansana predicated his debate on the global crisis and informed the House that, minimal levy and exemptions of taxation by the Bill would not affect low-income earners. He also expressed positive concern, relative to the amendment of the Bill especially on alcohol and beverages in light of health considerations.

In rounding up the debate, the Acting Leader of Opposition, Hon. Hassan Sesay said it is good to hear that Government is adding revenue to cater for some elements, but the timing must be considered. The MP expressed serious concern over the interest of the people, relative to the current economic burden. He described the Bill as additional taxation and would amount to an overburden on the people.

Speaking on corporate taxation, he said it would discourage investment and reduce employment.

The Leader also buttressed the previous speaker and denounced the payment of USD $25 tax by people with diplomatic passports and went on to disclose to Parliament, that people now travel through Guinea, because of the high price of air tickets. The MP continued to say that, Bill of such nature would also affect taxation on tourism and also increase the burden on the people.

In concluding the debate, the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Sahr Nyuma advanced several clarifications, in light of concerns raised earlier and informed the House that, taxation has always created contention and recalled some of the conflicts related matters. He recalled the positive aspects of the expert presentation regarding the consultation on the Bill. He spoke on the importance of tax collections, in light of transparency, accountability, and responsibility of the citizens as well as visibility and tangible developments.

The Leader asked the Minister to make some waivers very clear, relative to past experience. Amidst previous waivers on some goods, he said prices are still shooting up and pointing out demand and supply chain, in lieu of taxation. In light of the tax levied he suggested awareness raising and other responsibilities. “Taxes are not always friendly, but must be paid to develop the country,” he revealed. The taxes, he reiterated are not for the poor, but for those who are in high Corporate Business.

The Leader explained comprehensively the positivity of the Bill on tourism, economic growth and developments.

In another development also, Parliament on Tuesday 4th April,2023 at around 6;00 PM passed into law, the Bill entitled: “The Bank of Sierra Leone (Amendment) Act, 2023”.

The Bill is seeking to amend the Bank of Sierra Leone Act, 2019 to provide for and prescribe circumstances and conditions under which other currencies, other than the Leone, may be used as a medium of exchange in Sierra Leone and to provide for matters incidental thereto.