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SARS Chief To Chair New African Tax Administration Forum

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

26 November 2009

The Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service, Oupa Magashula, has been elected as the chairperson of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) at its inaugural conference in Kampala, Uganda.

ATAF’s goal is to become the central platform for African tax administrators to discuss and develop African tax priorities, develop and share best practices in the region and further afield, and build capacity in African tax policy and administration.

The idea of establishing ATAF is the result of deliberations at a conference attended by African tax commissioners from 30 countries and representatives of international organisations and donors who met in Pretoria, South Africa in August 2008.

Several ATAF technical events have already been held and projects begun in collaboration with ATAF’s development partners, including the African Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation and the International Tax Dialogue.

28 African countries have already signed up for membership - Botswana, Benin, Cameroon, Coite d’Ivoire, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Niger, Lesotho, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Oupa Magashula observed that, although this is an impressive number for a new organisation, ATAF wanted even more African countries to join.

Mr Magashula will head up a 10-member general council comprising of the heads of tax administrations of the elected countries. Each of the five geographical regions of Africa (north, south, east, west and central) elect a regional representative, and the four remaining positions on the general council are filled by a majority vote by ATAF members.

It was appropriate, Magashula suggested, to remind delegates again of ATAF’s objectives of improving the performance of tax administration in Africa so that they can more effectively mobilise domestic resources.

“This forum will allow us to pursue stronger cooperation and build a united approach in the field of tax policy and revenue realisation among African countries,” he added. “The countries of Africa should join hands and overcome the challenges of language, diversity and culture to build effective and efficient tax administrations that can contribute to the development of the continent. This would help contribute to economic growth and increase the accountability of the state to its citizens.”

The first communiqué issued at the conclusion of its inaugural conference stated that ATAF would “actively promote improvements in tax administration through sharing experiences, benchmarking, and peer reviewing best practices".

"Together we will develop our database of African tax systems and methodologies, and deliver capacity development events on international and domestic policy and administration issues,” the communiqué stated.

In order to facilitate its work programme in the longer term, ATAF resolved to establish an African Tax Centre. The next meeting of the ATAF Council will be held in March 2010, where a date for the first General Assembly will be decided.

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