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Global Payment and Compliance
Like other parts of the world, tax compliance is an important aspect of doing business in African countries as a foreign or local organization......
Tax compliance can be a nightmare for many businesses and organizations across Africa, especially those operating internationally, where tax requirements are complex and vary from country to country. As is the case for most businesses globally, tax compliance is a vital aspect of African organizations; it can significantly contribute to the success and growth of an organization or business.
For instance, most business processes, especially where transactions are involved, such as funding, business partnerships, and tenders, often require a business to be tax compliant. On the other hand, not being tax-compliant will easily affect a business's long-term viability and even tarnish its image.
Africa's tax landscape is diverse; nearly every country has specific tax laws and regulations. However, there are some common aspects, areas, and practices organizations operating in Africa should look into to help them stay tax-compliant in most African countries.
African organizations should prioritize registering with relevant local tax authorities as soon as they start their operations or as per requirements within the business's jurisdiction. Registration of businesses with tax authorities is a legal requirement in most African countries, and it’s done physically or through online portals.
It also allows them to obtain tax registration or identification numbers or equivalent identifiers from the respective local tax authorities. This number or identifier is quite essential when it comes to tax reporting and compliance purposes.
After registration, it is also essential for organizations to familiarize themselves with the relevant underlying policies and laws of the local tax authorities, regardless of the size of their business. It helps them become tax compliant, i.e., they’re taxed correctly and avoid penalties.
Some of the critical laws worth understanding are related to tax reporting, tax calculation, tax payments, and their procedural requirements. This means leaders and their teams in the accounting and finance departments of African organizations should educate themselves on the tax obligations they’re required to fulfill as per the local and international tax laws. It’s easily achievable through tax compliance training. Alternatively, they could consider seeking the help of professional tax accountants or consultants to understand detailed and complex tax provisions, especially in countries where tax laws change frequently.
Tax withholding, also called Pay-As-You-Earn, is a type of income tax paid to the government through their respective tax authority by the payer or employer. It means the income recipient is taxed at the income source, which is often an effective means to curb tax evasion. In most African countries, tax withholding applies to employment income, and employers must deduct, withhold, and remit taxes to relevant agencies within a given timeline.
An ideal example is payroll taxes, which employers are obligated to deduct from employees’ taxable income and salaries and remit to the local tax authority. Other basic statutory deductions employers should make include pension/social security contributions, healthcare insurance funds, housing/mortgage funds, etc. Organizations are also required to file withholding tax returns and issue tax certificates if needed.
However, the amount deducted is determined by several factors, such as the tax tables (which entail the tax rate and income range), filing status, tax credits, additional income sources, etc.
Now, businesses may opt to use payroll software to streamline processes such as tax calculation, withholding, and remittance and ensure consistent compliance. Payroll software can automatically and accurately calculate and withhold taxes (based on predefined tax tables) for different jurisdictions. Workpay is one of the payroll management software programs that helps African businesses and organizations maintain tax compliance by automating the entire payroll process (on a single platform), from PAYE calculation and tax withholding to reporting.
Often, most people think keeping accurate and up-to-date financial records is mainly for knowing a business's financial situation. While it serves this function, there are more benefits, especially in helping a business with tax obligations. As a result, a business can pay taxes accurately and file tax returns on time, avoiding tax-related penalties.
Among the practical tips to help organizations keep accurate financial records is using reliable accounting software or system, keeping receipts and invoices for purchases and sales, and reconciling bank accounts.
Different tax authorities provide various tax incentives and exemptions to businesses that meet specific requirements or are based on certain types of investments. Tax incentives also apply to employees who fall into various categories or meet certain requirements. Also, companies operating internationally should consider compliance with available international tax treaties to enjoy their benefits and avoid double taxation.
For instance, tax authorities in African countries often tend to offer tax exemptions to businesses that attract foreign investments, or certain goods are exempted from tax. Also, through the respective tax authorities, various African governments, such as Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt, offer tax exemptions on the employment income of people with disabilities or physical impairments.
Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST) is quite common, and most businesses (sole proprietors, partnerships, or companies) that provide products and services are required to register for VAT as per the requirements of a local tax authority. For instance, businesses in South Africa are required to register for VAT if the value of taxable supplies exceeds R1 million in any connected 12-month period.
Each African country has a different set of requirements for VAT registration; complying with the same within the jurisdiction of your business is vital.
Like other parts of the world, tax compliance is an important aspect of doing business in African countries as a foreign or local organization. Conversely, not maintaining tax compliance could lead to legal issues that could negatively impact an organization’s operations and image and lead to significant financial loss.
The above tax compliance checklist outlines some vital aspects and practices for organizations to remain tax-compliant when doing business in Africa. African organizations ought to ensure they meet their tax obligations diligently. Also, it’s crucial they stay updated with local tax regulations to enhance their compliance. Sometimes, organizations may need to hire or consult with professionals on certain complex tax matters or where tax systems are pretty complex.
Organizations of all sizes across Africa may as well opt to invest in quality payroll software to help them in tax compliance, especially in the issue of employee tax calculation, withholding taxes, and reporting.
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