The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) has announced that it will soon allow you to pay your taxes online with a debit/credit card. Nadun Guruge – Commissioner General of the IRD stated that this facility will be available within the next 3 months. Commenting on the announcement, he said “There will be a reduction in compliance cost as well as time saved.”
This feature comes as a welcome addition to the existing online services provided by the IRD. These existing services include: filing of returns, registration, checking tax balance and transaction history, among others. It’s a positive step in the realm of e-government. Particularly as the Central Bank announced that it would work towards driving digital payments this year.
However, while this is a positive announcement, Sri Lanka has a murky record with government IT projects. There are some successful stories where things worked like the Digital Health Project and the website by the Police to report lost phones. Granted, while they may not have always been perfect, they worked. Unlike others such as the Free WiFi initiative, e-local government, the Open Data initiative to name a few.
So what should we keep in mind as we move towards collecting taxes online? Already, countries like Estonia, India, Singapore, and the US have facilities where you can pay your taxes online. Of these, Estonia in particular has a lesson we can take. The country allows taxes to be paid online with information readily available. Hence, all one needs to do is simply confirm if it’s accurate and click a confirmation button to pay their taxes. No heaps of forms to fill out manually.
This is something we should keep in mind. Taxes are complicated. By moving the process of paying them online, the IRD has an opportunity to simplify them. In turn, the entire process of paying taxes itself. Of course, the elephant in the room is security. As we move towards online tax collection, the importance of security cannot be understated. Particularly considering the government’s track record of dealing with cyber attacks.
Ultimately, the move towards enabling taxes to be paid online is a positive step forward. One many other developed countries have taken. Yet, as we move forward there are a few things we must keep in mind. Particularly, in terms of ensuring a secure well-designed simplified experience. After all, the last thing anyone wants to worry about is their credit card details being stolen while paying their taxes.