URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol

The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has in a new directive instructed commercial banks to furnish it with details of clients/customers who hold accounts with them, setting off a panic button for thousands with huge unexplained and illicit monies.

According to the directive, all commercial banks are supposed to send records of financial information of clients, including the names of accounts holders, Tax Identification Number (TIN), National Identification Number (NIN), Address, telephone number and email addresses.

The directive also wants banks to disclose customers’ total cash deposits into the accounts for the period January 2016 to December 2017. The directive also asks for total cash withdrawals for that period.

URA also wants the current balance on depositors’ accounts and it is relying on Section 42 of the Tax Procedure Code Act.

The directive comes at the time when a few Ugandans hold bank accounts. The findings of a recent survey carried out by MicroSave and commissioned by Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU) found that up to 58 percent of Ugandan adults that are currently unbanked.

Meanwhile, the number of accounts in commercial banks has increased from 4.5 million as at June 2015 to 7.4 million as at June 2017; while number of accounts in financial institutions licensed by the BoU (Commercial banks, Credit Institutions and MDIs) rose by 3.3 million over a two year period to 9.3 million accounts as at June 2017.

Last week, President Yoweri Museveni blamed the Ministry of Finance and URA for doing less to broaden the tax base.

This financial year, URA was tasked to collect just over 15trn to partly fund the Shs29 trn budget for 2017/18 fiscal year. However it appears the target won’t be achieved as country prepares for the new financial year that starts June. This comes up at the time when the tax body is also investigating former Executive Director in charge of Supervision at Bank of Uganda Justine Bagyenda for possible tax invasion on her properties and money laundering.