Uganda Prepares for Crucial Peer Review to Enhance Financial Integrity

Uganda is actively preparing for an imminent peer review of its practices related to tax and the safeguarding of financial information. The primary objective of this review is to bolster Uganda’s global standing in terms of financial integrity. It will be conducted by experts from the Global Forum on Tax Transparency and Exchange of Information, marking the second such assessment since Uganda’s accession to the forum in 2015.

John Musinguzi, the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), underscores that this undertaking forms a vital part of strategic initiatives aimed at removing Uganda from the transactional grey list. This list signifies a concerted commitment to enhance international financial integrity. Musinguzi emphasizes that this review will serve as a testament to Uganda’s preparedness to join a group of 168 nations that willingly exchange tax and financial information.

This exchange of information will empower the authority to access precise data concerning multinational and cross-border investigations. He further elucidates that since 2014, the authority has handled up to 236 information requests, resulting in the collection of 256 billion shillings due to Global Forum interventions. This has led to enhanced tax compliance and a better understanding of taxpayers’ responsibilities.

Following the 2015 review, Uganda received a “largely compliant” rating, which was the second-highest rating at the time. Musinguzi stresses that this time around, Uganda aspires to improve its rating, as the current one entails substantial costs. Non-compliance could result in severe consequences such as blacklisting, heightened business expenses, delays in supply chains, and more. Uganda is resolute in avoiding these repercussions by achieving compliance.

The review process evaluates the standards established by the Global Forum, of which Uganda is a member. It scrutinizes the legal and regulatory framework for information exchange and its practical implementation. According to Musinguzi, Uganda has made advancements based on the recommendations from the 2015 review.

Moses Kagwa, the Director for Economic Monitoring in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, calls upon all government agencies to collaborate with and support URA during this review. He emphasizes that the rating impacts not only URA but the entire national economy, influencing all sectors.

“As agencies, we possess the authority to shape Uganda’s peer review report by demonstrating that we have the requisite legal framework in place for the availability of legal and beneficial ownership information, accounting information, banking information, and that in practice, URA can access it upon request, and in certain cases, directly through systems integration and liaisons. We are all united in this endeavor,” he urges.

Kagwa implores agencies to demonstrate that Uganda has the essential legal framework in place for the availability of ownership information and that URA can effectively access it. He underscores the significance of collective effort in this undertaking.

Kagwa also highlights the need for improvement in Uganda’s financial integrity record, as the country faces concerns about being placed on the grey list as a potential hub for money laundering. The outcomes of this review carry weight in the decision-making processes of international companies and their investment considerations in Uganda. Many multilateral development banks factor in the Global Forum rating in their policies, and international supply chains are influenced by these ratings, impacting business transactions and the cost of doing business in Uganda.

Agnes Rojas, a tax policy adviser at the Global Forum Secretariat and the lead assessor for the Uganda review, elucidates that this review will assess Uganda against updated terms of reference since the 2015 review. The assessment will also scrutinize the legal framework facilitating information exchange and its implementation by responsible agencies.

The information-gathering process for this review commences tomorrow, with the review set to continue until June 2024. The review period spans from January 2020 to December 2023.

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