Liberian Import Taxes (2.5% To 25%) Versus Export Taxes Of 0%
By: Yanqui Zaza – October 5, 2021
AN APPEAL TO THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT ESPECIALLY THE LIBERIA REVENUE AUTHORITY (LRA) AND A CALL TO POLITICAL PARTIES, CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AND CONCERNED LIBERIANS.
This is an appeal to the Liberian Government, especially our Liberian Lawmakers to reduce the import tax rate (ranging from 2.5% to 25%) and remove the 0%tax rate and re-institute the 10% tax on goods sold to buyers outside of Liberia. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf replaced the 10% with 0% tax rate on exported goods on December 5, 2016.
This is also an appeal to the Liberian Revenue Authority to request ArcelorMittal Steel and Liberian Firestone Rubber Plantation, to file the Withholding Tax Returns to report export taxes that they should have collected based on goods sold to buyers outside of Liberia before December 5, 2016, if there is no Liberian Tax Law that exempts and/or prohibits (for example, Liberian Law on Statute of Limitation) the two Liberian taxpayers.
What is export tax? “Export taxes are taxes on goods or services that become payable when the goods leave the economic territory…the taxes are a credible policy, yielding the government some revenue,” says Mr. Roberta Piemartini, ERSD, World Trade Organization.
Mr. Piemartini added that “…Export taxes are mainly used by developing and least-developed countries (LDCs). Of the 15 LDCs reviewed in the context of the WTO Trade Policy Review Mechanism, 10 impose export duties, while only 3 of 30 OECD countries use them. The research shows that Ghana and Sierra Leone do not impose tax on export, yet Ghana, according to Figure 6 of Natural Resources Revenue (2000-2013 and 2014-2017), percent of Gross National Product, collected more revenue than revenue collected by South Africa, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, or Liberia.
Liberia collects minimal revenue from natural resources due to many reasons, according to page # 20 of the Liberia Domestic Revenue Policy Notes dated May 20, 2019. The Report stated that, “…despite relatively rich natural resource base, especially in iron ore, rubber… Liberia collects minimal public revenues from these activities.” Adding, the Report stated Liberia
- Does not devote enough attention to enforcement of the applicable tax legislation.
- Grants tax exemptions in a discretionary and non-transparent way; and
- Does not apply fiscal transparency rules related to natural resources (see Box 1 below).” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The differences between revenue collected from tax on export and revenue from tax on import support the conclusion on page # 20.
Liberia’s Rev. Export Tax: USD $3.7M in 2012; USD $0.5M in 2013; and USD $0.5M in 2014
Liberia’s Rev. Import Tax: USD $148M in 2012; USD $148M in 2013; and USD $155M in 2014
Prior to December 5, 2016, tax imposed on goods exported was 10%, according to page # 161 of the Liberian Revenue Code of Liberia Act 2000 of Section 1703. It stated then, that “Customs export duties shall be levied on, and paid by the exporter…” However, on December 5, 2016, former President of the Republic of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed the Amendment stating that, “ …the rate of goods tax is (10) percent of the Section 1004 taxable amount, except that if the supply is an export of goods, the tax rate is zero (0) percent.”
Iron ore exported: USD $373M in 2014; USD $325M in 2013; and USD $117M in 2012.
Rubber exported: USD $106M in 2014; USD $132M in 2013; and USD $176M in 2012.
So, did Liberia receive USD $119M revenue (USD $119M ($37M+ $32M + $11M + $10M + $13M + $17M) for tax periods 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively, based on 10% tax rate imposed on latex and iron ore exported to buyers outside of Liberia? Or did the Liberian government exempt these exported goods from the 10% tax rate? What was/were the economic reasons for exempting outside buyers from paying the tax on exported goods? If no exemption, who, other than the government, receive the revenue?
Presumably, the public believes that Firestone’s owner/parent, located outside of Liberia, bought the exported goods produced in Liberia. This is because common suggests that the owner/parent of Liberian Firestone Rubber Plantation, Bridgestone, the Japanese Company, would not allow its subsidiary (Liberian Firestone Rubber Plantation) to sell raw materials (latex) to a competitor.
Liberian officials awarding sweetheart deals such as tax exempt and/or collecting and pocketing government revenue from natural resources companies is not new. Records do not show that Liberia received its share of dividends/profits that Liberian American Swedish Mineral Company (LAMCO) Liberia Liberian Mining Company (BMC) distributed, for instance. The government of Liberia did own 37% interest in Liberian American Swedish Mineral Company (LAMCO) or and 50% shares of the Liberian Mining Company (BMC), according to (www.archive.unu.edu/unupress/unpbooks/un29me/uu29meOb.htm).
Some economists argue against the imposition of tax on exported goods. They claimed that “Export tariffs raise the price for domestic companies to export their goods. Other experts see export tariffs as harmful to the domestic economy. Liberia’s companies are not competing because none of these companies is adding values, rather, they are selling raw materials. And, unfortunately, records do not show the prices (i.e., market price or parent’s dictated price) for latex and/or iron ore.
Arguing in favor of export tax, Mr. Richard Goode, Mr. George E. Lent, and P. D. Ojha of the IMF eLIBRARY, 2021 Richard Goode, George E. Lent, and P.D. Ojha stated that revenue purpose is okay. Additionally, export taxes compensate the devaluation of a country’s currency and as a means of stabilizing the economy during a period of fluctuating prices.
This is a call to Political Parties, Civil Society Organizations, Religious Institutions, etc. to use the May 20, 2019, Report of the World Bank and encourage our elected Officials to re-institute the tax on exported goods and reduce tax on imported goods. Let us wakeup and end Liberia’s reliance on loans and donors’ contributions to fund Liberia’s programs. Also, remember that the revenue collected from the tax on imported goods is paid by residents of Liberia, which increases the cost of living.
- Yanqui Zaza