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URA Launches Global Travel System To Curb Tax Evasion, Terrorism Financing

Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has launched the Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS), the first of a kind in the East African region that will go a long way in reducing tax evasion and terrorism financing among other benefits.

It was officially launched on Monday at URA head offices in Nakawa, Kampala during the Authority’s 10th Customs Council Meeting. URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol presided over the launch.

The IT based system will allow URA customs officials get advance information of passengers (passenger manifest) inbound to Entebbe International Airport from Airlines as soon as the plane takes off. URA will be able to know the number of passengers and their profiles heading to Uganda as well as their connecting flights. The System will be managed by the National Risk Targeting Centre under URA.

Akol thanked the US Border Control and the World Customs Organizations for the support in developing and adopting the system.

She said GTAS has enhanced URA’s capacity to ensure that all passengers on the plane pay their share of taxes.

“It will also support other government departments with whatever information that will need advance information on the passengers that are coming in,” Akol said.

Speaking more about the GTAS, Dicksons C Kateshumbwa (pictured), the Commissioner Customs at URA said under the WCO Security programme there’s an initiative that many Customs Organizations want to implement of being able to manage information in advance.

“When the airline lands, you’ve so many people getting off the airline with their bags and when they land at Entebbe, we have to check them through the scanners. What has been happening, we have been managing the risk when it arrives on our land; when you arrive, that’s when we start looking at you, what you might be carrying; whether it paid tax or not but the modern way of doing things is to zip data in advance,” Kateshumbwa said.

How it works

He revealed that the GTAS enables “URA to get pre-arrival passenger manifest from airlines that will detail who is coming, what kind of cargo is carrying, the weight, the movements so that we analyse using our risk team/tools to data mine and study what this person coulbe be carrying even before you arrive,. So when you arrive it will be easy to determine whether you have taxable goods or not.”

He said some families have been going for holiday but come back with heavy luggage that are not categorized as personal luggage.

“It will also help us work with other government agencies especially security to profile passengers; If security is interested in someone, we will know in advance because this system is open,” he said, adding that the system will also help URA and government  track drug traffickers and tackle terrorism financing.

“we don’t want to be searching wrong people and leaving out people who could be having interest in. When you arrive, we may pick you out of 20 people  and interrogate you further basing on the information that we have,” he said.

Customs contributes 35% to URA’s revenue.

“We always come up with initiatives to help us hit revenue target but also facilitate people quickly. It is also important for facilitation. This is one system that will manage travelers having cargo that might be taxable,” he said.

Kateshumbwa said they already have two airlines on board; RwandaAir and Kenya Airways but they are discussing with others.

“We shall keep updating the system as other airlines come onboard,” he said.

Taddewo William Senyonyi
William is a seasoned business and finance journalist. He is also an agripreneur and a coffee enthusiast.

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