The World Bank has applauded the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) for having registered a substantial number of businesses since 2012, in efforts aimed at expanding the tax book.
According to the bureau, more than 550,000 business entities were registered in the last four years, in all its seven regional offices under the World Bank’s Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CEDEP) project.
“This is a remarkable improvement from two years ago, when everything was disorganized and looking for a document took weeks. Now, it takes just a day to secure a business name, and we can say that we are committed to continued support,” the lead private sector development specialist for the World Bank, John Wille told the press.
This was during a guided tour of URSB facilities in the Kampala region, to determine progress made since the project’s initiation in 2012.
He said the World Bank has since injected more than $10m (sh33.5b), to set up reliable ICT infrastructure in the URSB offices, get the right legal infrastructure in place, set up communication lines and build human resource capacity.
According to the URSB director of business registration, Mercy Kainobwisho, the partnership with KCCA and URA in the Kampala has been most effective, with approximately 290 businesses registered every week.
“In the last two months, we finalized 900 businesses and collected more than sh700m in none tax revenue, which is incredible,” she said.
She said the incredible turn around in business registration has pushed figures from the initial 500,000 registered businesses in March 2016 to more than 790,000 businesses.
“Majority of them own small and medium enterprises that have been operating informally, but due to sensitisation and a friendly approach, they have come out to formalise their operations, “she said.
Last month, Finance minister Matia Kasaija sounded a warning to the informal sector, cautioning them against operating their businesses covertly to evade taxes.
He said the informal sector remains largely hidden from existing regulations and yet it is highly commercial, with a great potential to turn around the country’s revenue fortunes.
“The reason they remain in hiding lies in their obsessive desire to profiteer, amass wealth, and escape working under the law, but we shall get them. We all must grow together, not at the expense of a few tax payers,” Kasaija said.
Statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that SMES account for approximately 90% of the entire private sector, with over 80% of manufactured output and 18% of GDP contribution.