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Sierra Leone Dele Returns from High Level Meeting on Tobacco Taxation Policy in Kigali, Rwanda

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Sierra Leone Dele Returns from High Level Meeting on Tobacco Taxation Policy in Kigali, Rwanda

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Thirteen African countries from East, West and Central Africa including the Madagascar participated in the meeting represented by the Sierra Leone team that comprised the Team Leader, Mr. Lansana Conteh, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Moo-usa Salia Konneh, National Revenue Authority (NRA) and Mrs. Aminata Grace Kobie, Communication Officer WHO Country Office.

Participants during discussions recognized domestic revenue mobilization to support sustainable development goals as key in developing countries, noting that it enables governments to champion their own development agendas. The workshop also acknowledged excise duties as the positive way of taxing cigarettes and tobacco products to improve public health and increase revenue mobilization. It recognizes specific rate monetary value per quantity ranging to packing, weight, carton, piece of cigarettes and tobacco products to be superior in enhancing domestic revenue mobilization.

Sierra Leone was singled out as the only country that has a lower import duty rate of 10 percent and no excise duty on cigarettes and tobacco products. The team advanced that increase in smuggling which led to the reduction in domestic revenue collection for the basis for the low import duty and elimination of excise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products, and this reason was challenged with tangible evidences.

The Gambia, Rwanda and Kenya were identified as countries that have advanced in taxing cigarettes and tobacco products, and Sierra Leone was encouraged to learn from these three countries. The experience in all three countries is that, the imposition of high taxation on cigarettes and tobacco products did not reduce revenue collection through smuggling but rather led to increase revenue collection contrary to the reasons advanced by the Sierra Leone team.

Next step in effecting tobacco taxation policy change in Sierra Leone was catalogued in Eight folders: Design appropriate tobacco taxation policy, Develop Excise Duty Act as the country currently is using the 1983 Excise Duty Act since the repeal of the Customs and Excise Act 1978 in place of the Customs Act 2011, Introduction of the Excise Duty on cigarettes and tobacco products based on specific tax model rather than the ad valorem tax and explore new areas on telecommunications and gambling tickets. Also on the next step, the use of tax stamp on cigarettes and tobacco products and alcohol was highlighted, including the introduction of compulsory and specific licenses to importers and distributors of cigarettes and tobacco products, reintroduction of Import Duty Rate of 20 percent consistent with ECOWAS from the current 10 percent, Introducing the Track and Trace system for monitoring transit goods including tobacco products as in Kenya, and to introduce the use of WHO TAXSIM to forecast excise duty revenues for tobacco products and alcohol.

The team also presented the support required by Sierra Leone from WHO and other development partners:  These include the design and development of an appropriate taxation policy and Excise Duty Act, Building capacity to implement specific tax model from the  current ad valorem, introduce track and trace method of monitoring transit goods, sponsor duty tours from countries to countries that have introduced the track and trace systems, and to build the capacity in WHO TAXSIM MODEL to forecast excise revenues for cigarettes and tobacco products and alcohol.

Other highlights include WHO’s interest to pay a visit to Sierra Leone, and make presentation to Government stakeholders on the impact of tobacco taxation and domestic revenue mobilization during the second and third week in October, 2016. The presentation will form the basis for the re-introduction of Excise Taxes on cigarettes and other non-tradition goods in the 2017 Finance Bill.

Logistics arrangements are currently underway for the visit of the WHO mission.

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