Businesses in the region often choose to remain informal to avoid what is described as outdated and oppressive tactics employed by tax officials.
The authority to formulate tax laws is not limitless; it operates within a framework of legal constraints. These limitations stem from various aspects, including constitutional principles or other fundamental legal principles that underpin organised societies. However, unlike more established systems, West African nations grapple with the absence of robust legal structures, a critical element guided by the rule of law and subject to well-defined limits. This void presents significant challenges, As the tax systems grapple with aligning themselves with broader societal interests.
This legal infrastructure void not only unveils a significant gap in the formal dispute resolution process but also contributes to a complex environment where businesses often opt for informality to evade the alleged harassment by tax officials.
It is not uncommon to hear stories from the region about businesses choosing to remain informal to avoid what has been described as mediaeval-era tactics of tax officials. One prominent young businessman in the region shared his decision to eschew formal financial institutions, revealing a distressing narrative of ongoing harassment by tax authorities. In an alarming twist, he disclosed his plans to wind down his activities due to the absence of a legal process to address and remedy such harassment.
This narrative sheds light on a broader issue, as this businessman's experience is unfortunately not an exception but a widely known reality faced by businesses across the region. The absence of tax tribunals and a robust legal framework exacerbates the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, leading them to choose informality as a shield against what they perceive as arbitrary actions by tax authorities.
The decision of businesses to operate outside the formal system due to harassment by tax officials underscores a systemic issue that requires urgent attention. The absence of a clear legal recourse leaves entrepreneurs feeling defenceless, fostering an environment where economic activities are stifled, and growth is impeded. It also perpetuates a cycle where businesses, fearing harassment and seeking a semblance of control, opt for informality, further perpetuating the challenges in the formal tax sector.
In addressing this critical issue, it becomes imperative for West African countries not only to establish tax tribunals but also to ensure the accessibility and effectiveness of these institutions. A robust legal framework that protects businesses from harassment, coupled with an efficient dispute resolution mechanism, is essential to fostering a conducive environment for economic growth.
The absence of a well-defined legal framework creates an environment where economic strategies related to taxation lack the necessary cohesion with established legal principles. In most West African countries, economic policies related to taxation are not anchored in a comprehensive legal structure, leading to inconsistencies and inefficiencies. This misalignment between economic strategies and legal foundations results in inefficiencies, hindering economic growth and impeding the optimal allocation of resources. In the present circumstances, the rule of law, a fundamental aspect of a sound legal framework, is frequently compromised in West African countries grappling with institutional constraints. The rule of law dictates that taxes should only be levied when authorised by duly enacted laws, applied impartially, and the revenues generated should serve legitimate public purposes.
In the absence of clearly defined legal boundaries, tax systems in West African countries run the risk of deviating from their intended purpose of serving the broader interests of society. Instead, they may evolve into primary mechanisms for inefficiencies, corruption, and mismanagement, resulting in suboptimal resource allocation. The absence of well-established limits creates opportunities for ineffective tax policies, potentially burdening businesses and individuals without achieving the desired economic outcomes.