National Revenue Authority (NRA)

The National Revenue Authority Act was enacted in September 2002 in parliament as an embodiment of the Custom Services Department and the Income Tax Department. It however becomes operational in January as an autonomous revenue collection and administrative authority. The integration of the Government Gold and Diamond Office (GGDO) and the Non Tax Revenue Department (NTR) into the NRA in 2004 and recently the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Subsequently Domestic Department (DTD) is yet another key strategy within the domestic revenue mobilization framework of the government.
The NRA Board of Directors comprises the chairman and six (6) other members. The composition of the board is stated as follows:
The Chairman
The Financial Secretary
The Bank Governor
Legal Counsel
Tax Specialist
Commissioner General.
The Chairman shall be appointed by the president, subject to the approval of parliament, from among persons with knowledge, integrity and practical experience in matters relevant to the functions of the Authority. The Board of Directors with the exception of the Financial Secretary, the Governor of Bank of Sierra Leone and the Commissioner-General shall hold office for a period of three (3) years and shall be eligible for re-appointment for three consecutive terms only (NRA, 2010).
The objectives of the Authority are to strengthen the assessment and collection of the National Revenue and the administration and enforcement of the laws relating to the National Revenue. It shall be the function of the Authority:
To administer and enforce the laws set out in the schedule.
To make recommendation to government for amendments and other improvements in the laws specified in the schedule.
To formulate and implement plans for developing and maintaining an effective, fair and efficient revenue collection system.
To take such measures as may be necessary to improve the standards of attendance to the needs of tax payers with a view to maximizing the efficiency of revenue collection.
To advice the government on matters of policy relating to revenue, whether or not arising from any laws referred to in the schedule.
To initiate, develop and sustain programmes for public education on the need for the payment of taxes and the consequences of non-payment and evasion of taxes.
To institute measures to counteract tax fraud and other forms of fiscal evasion.
To administer discipline and control over all members of staff.
To do such other things as are conductive to the attainment of the object stated above.
In pursuit of these objectives, it is the mission of the Authority to design and implement effective strategies and programmes to collect and account for all tax revenues at a minimum cost while facilitating trade,
investment and the movement of people across the borders of Sierra Leone through an efficient, transparent and tax-payer friendly and stakeholders’ ship service delivery.
The department of Customs started its operations in 1909 (No available documentary evidence). It started its operations at the old Parcel Post Building at Government Wharf in the central Freetown and later relocated at its current location-Queen Elizabeth II Quay, Cline Town, Freetown. Customs is a unique organization among government agencies, in that it is neither a domestic agency nor an international agency. It is poised on the international borders, not only as an expansion of a sovereignty, but also as the nation’s
guard against external threats to health, safety and the environment, protecting (for better or for worse) domestic industry and collecting revenue from various sources as stipulated in the National Legislation and other international conventions, protocols and regional agreements to support the Government of Sierra Leone.
Customs work also consists of the manual labor of inspecting cargos, vessels and passengers, and patrolling long stretches of border between ports and border crossing points. The Customs Service Department is one among the revenue collecting departments in the National Revenue Authority. This department is responsible for the administration of custom laws. The department is headed by a commissioner. He is the professional head and he receives instructions from the Commissioner-General or any officer acting in that capacity. Since the National Revenue Authority took over the administration of Customs Service Department, a lot of administrative and procedural changes have been made and the constrains and limitations of the old administration is now being addressed in order to achieve its goal. Such changes are the establishment of the Preventive Services and Special Duties (PSSD) units now Anti Smuggle Unit (ASU) and with the recent integration of Automation of Customs operations (ASYCUDA+++). The department has its headquarters at Customs House, Cline Town, Freetown, with about (eleven) 11 outstations situated at entry points bordering Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The department is currently accounting for over 55% of the total revenue collected by the Authority.
The challenges faced by developing countries like Sierra Leone, for example, are the recruitment and retention of trained and qualified tax administrators which are urgently required to achieve a healthy revenue collection. Deficiency of resources in terms of personnel and equipment that will enable them to carry out their duties efficiently and effectively; lack of necessary degree of professionalism and accountability and a deficiency of clear strategy for improving revenue collection procedures. Complex and badly etched laws and the political system are also pointers to inefficient tax administration and hence hinder revenue collection.