(Business in Cameroon) - In the 2020 Finance bill, adopted by Parliament a few days ago, new provisions have been added to Cameroon's General Tax Code to force taxpayers to register and fulfill their tax obligations.
According to the new paragraph 3 of Article L1 bis, from now on, any natural or legal person subject to the payment of a tax will no longer be able to carry out certain transactions if that person does not have a unique tax identification number. The transactions include account opening with microfinance and credit institutions, subscription to any type of insurance contract, the signature of contracts for connection or subscription to water or electricity networks, land registration and authorization for a regulated profession (notary, lawyer, bailiff...).
To date, and according to Article L1 of the tax code, all legal persons and individuals carrying out an income-generating activity are required “to apply for registration with territorially competent tax authorities within fifteen (15) working days of starting their activities.” Following this request, a unique identification number and a taxpayer card is issued to the taxpayer consecrating entry into the tax registry.
Broadening of the tax base
Despite this provision, many Cameroonians and foreigners living in the country do not fulfill this obligation. According to sources, it is estimated that between 20 and 30% of national wealth eludes tax every year. Hence paragraph 3 of Article L1 bis aimed at forcing legal and natural persons to fulfill their tax obligations and broadening the tax base.
Violation of this article is also punishable. Indeed, according to the new paragraph 5 of Article 100, a bank or microfinance that opens an account for an organization or individual not registered in the tax registry will incur a fine of XAF5 million.
This reform is welcomed by the Chief Tax Inspector, Alain Symphorien Ndzana Biloa. In his book titled “La fiscalité, un levier pour l'émergence des pays africains de la zone franc. Le cas du Cameroun” (translating to ‘Tax as a lever for the emergence of African countries of the CFA zone: the case of Cameroon), published in 2015 by L'Harmattan, the Cameroonian senior official argues that the tax administration should boost "the registration of taxpayers by going beyond the provisions of Article L1 of the CGI, which states that registration can only be done at the request of taxpayers.”
According to this expert, the tax identification number also contributes to better traceability of tax revenues. It makes it possible to accurately determine the tax to be deducted from natural persons. This level of traceability can also help in the collection of tax information and strengthen controls during declaration.
Bankers, for their part, express concern that this reform would slow down bank penetration, which is currently estimated at 19%.