Posts tagged FRCA

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama receives new FRCA FNPF card

PM Receives His Joint ID Card: FNPF and FRCA

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama received his joint Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) and Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) card today.

FRCA chief executive officer, Jitoko Tikolevu, while responding to PM’s queries about the process and the rationale behind the need for such a card, reassured Commodore Bainimarama that tax information would not be divulged and would remain confidential.

“The tax information of individuals and companies will not be released to FNPF, that’s not a data we will be sharing as that information is confidential to FRCA but for other information, members can use just one card to access that and use it for identity purpose as well,” he said.

FRCA treats tax information of individuals and businesses as confidential.

Mr Tikolevu told Prime Minister Bainimarama that there were some individuals who had abused the Tax Identification Number letter which was one of the issues the card would address.

He said this card would also bring Fiji in line with other countries of the world, such as the United States, where they had social security number.

However, the card holders will have to go to the respective institutions to get their information, that is, tax information can only be obtained at FRCA and likewise for FNPF.

Application forms are now available with FRCA having started the registration process and FNPF will follow soon.

Mr Tikolevu said this project did not require the two institutions to fork out extra funding because all resources and manpower were already in place.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of the FRCA Customer Service Centre, Sigatoka

This morning I was in Rakiraki to open the FRCA Customer Services Centre and I am happy this afternoon to do the same here in Sigatoka. Whilst the two areas are different in terms of economic development they are both very important regions for our economy and they both have great potential for future growth. Such occasions therefore give me much pleasure to demonstrate my governments commitment to encourage growth and to serving all Fijians equally.

We understand that in the past government did not have much of a presence outside of the big cities and towns. We understand that in order for us to fulfill our duty we must bring our services to you. This region is vital to the economic potential of Fiji not only is the coral coast the backbone of Fiji’s tourism industry, Sigatoka is also known as the salad bowl of Fiji. It is therefore only proper that we have the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority establish an office here. FRCA is one of the tier one agencies whose approval is needed for new investments. If we are to generate more economic growth we need to offer these services in areas such as Sigatoka.

Opening the FRCA office here will also provide general taxation customer services to the people of Nadroga and Navosa. You will not have to travel to Nadi and Lautoka or Suva for these services any longer.

Ladies and gentlemen if we are to succeed in making government more effective, more responsive and more capable it is very important that you pay your taxes in full and on time. Everyone who evades taxes denies you, your children and your fellow citizens from government services you rely on. People who don’t pay their taxes don’t take money away from government but from their fellow Fijians. It means less money for new schools, new roads and of course new hospitals. If everyone in Fiji paid their taxes and complied with tax laws we could easily have a surplus budget with prudent financial management. We could provide more services and we could do more as a nation.

For our part we have lowered taxes and reduced duty rates for a number of key imports to make sure that our tax system is fair and affordable. This year we are going to further simplify our tax system and continue our efforts. I believe that taxes should not be a burden or seem like a punishment, they should be a way for citizens to share in improving our country. They should be a way to lift the standard of living for all Fijians to improve public safety and provide the services that government is placed to provide. That is my aim and my reducing the burden of taxes and raising the value of what you receive for your taxes I believe that people will see that paying their taxes is one of the many privileges of being a Fijian and not just a civic duty. If you are not complying with the rules you know who you are and soon FRCA will know who you are, remember if you hide they will seek. So don’t sit on the sideline, take pride in doing your part for Fiji.

Ladies and gentlemen I am proud to say that one of FRCAs Gold Card members Tappoos is from Sigatoka. The Gold Card premium services which I launched late last year is a partnership between FRCA and certain government agencies offering red carpet services to complying tax payers. We want to thank those Fijians including ordinary Fijians who pay their taxes on time and reward them for their commitment to nation building including the projects we are supporting right here in the Nadroga province. I encourage all of you therefore to make good use of the facilities now available to you.

Ladies and gentlemen I now have the pleasure of declaring the FRCA Sigatoka Customer Services Centre open.

Vinaka vakalevu.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of the FRCA Customer Service Centre, Rakiraki

FRCA Board Members;

Invited Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a good morning to you all.

It is a pleasure to be here this morning to open Fiji Revenue and Custom Authority’s (FRCA) new Customer Services Centre in Rakiraki.

It was only a month ago that this area faced the wrath of Tropical Cyclone Evan. This cyclone affected thousands of families in this area and caused a great deal of sorrow.

But I am proud that we stood together throughout these difficult times.  Now, we are working together to rebuild. So it is no small achievement that today we are here to witness the opening of the FRCA Rakiraki Customer Services Centre.

It is a sign of resilience, and it is symbolic of the fighting spirit of the people of Ra.

When I opened the Rakiraki Legal Aid Office two months ago, I said that my Government is committed to providing services to all Fijians living in all parts of the country, not only those living in large cities and towns.

This Government is a government for all people. With this in mind, I instructed FRCA to make their services easily available to Fijians living outside of the main urban centres. They have done that through the opening of this office and, later today, an office in Sigatoka.

Now, you do not have to travel as far as Lautoka for FRCA services – its right here on your doorsteps.

By spreading more Government services into more communities, we hope to remove barriers for growth and development and encourage economic growth

Rakiraki and the Ra Province have huge economic potential. The sugar industry has long been the economic mainstay of this area. But now a number of industries, such as tourism and non-sugar agriculture including dairy, are emerging and that will bring new opportunities and important diversity to the economy here.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I stated in my 2013 Budget Announcement, my Government will push relentlessly for equality of all Fijians.

Our overall aim is to modernise and streamline all the instruments and institutions of Government.

But this is not just a job for government; it is a national endeavour. It benefits all Fijians, and it is important that you all participate, that each Fijian adds his or her grain of sand to the effort. How can the average citizen help? You can help us to help you by paying your taxes and customs duties in full and on time.

We have lowered taxes and reduced duty rates on a number of key imports to make sure that our tax and revenue system is fair and affordable.

This year, we are going to further liberalise and simplify our tax system and continue our efforts. I believe that taxes should not be a burden or seem like a punishment. They should be a way for citizens to share in improving our country. They should be a way to help lift all Fijians. They should be a way to raise the standard of living, promote public safety, and provide the services that government is best placed to provide. That is my aim. And by reducing the burden of taxes and raising the value of what you receive for your taxes, I believe people will see paying their taxes as one of the many privileges of being a Fijian, and not just a civic duty.

One of our key initiatives in the 2013 Budget is the increase in the tax threshold for individuals from $15,600 to $16,000 in 2013. This means that more Fijians at low-income levels will not be paying taxes at all.

We are also making the Pay As You Earn or PAYE as a final tax this year, which means ordinary taxpayers will not have to file tax returns in 2014.

So we do not think that we are asking too much by asking Fijians to pay their taxes and asking our importers and exporters to comply with our laws. If we all do our honest share, we will all gain.

Tax evasion and customs fraud not only rob the Government of money but also deny opportunities for all other law-abiding Fijians who rely on the services Government provides.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to remind you that law-abiding taxpayers are also eligible for FRCA’s Gold Card Premium Reward program. Being a member gives you a red carpet service with FRCA or one of its partnering agencies, such as the Land Transport Authority, Immigration Department, Air Pacific and Biosecurity Authority of Fiji.

This is not a rich man’s club and a club for businesses. Anyone who has been diligent about paying their taxes can become a member.

My fellow Fijians, I now have much pleasure in declaring the FRCA Rakiraki Customer Services Centre open.

Vinaka vakalevu.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama Opens Rakiraki FRCA Office

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Launch of FRCA’s Gold Card Services

Cabinet Ministers;

Members of the FRCA Board;

Distinguished Guests;

Government Officials,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

As your Minister for Finance and Prime Minister, it is indeed my pleasure to be here this morning to launch the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority Gold Card Premium Services as well as its revamped website.

In my 2012 National Budget Address, I directed the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) to develop a program to provide expedited services and reward businesses and  individuals who have a consistent history of paying their Customs Duties and Taxes fully and on time. The result is Gold Card Premium Services and a web site that is more functional, informative, and user-friendly.

My Government is making great progress in delivering on our promises to ease administrative burdens on taxpayers.

Let’s face it: Most people don’t like to pay taxes. But we all recognize—or we all should recognize—that paying taxes is a civic duty. Taxes are contributions to the common good and the common wealth of the nation. We form governments to do the things that we cannot do as individuals or voluntary associations. And taxes are the way we get those things done. Without them, we can’t secure the nation, fight crime, educate our children, ensure public health, or create proper infrastructure for commerce.

Unfortunately, there have always been a group of people in Fiji who try to avoid paying taxes, sometimes through cheating and corruption.

These people take all the advantages that the Government provides without paying their fair share. They live off the labour, honesty, and civic-mindedness of people who pay their taxes honestly.

My Government is committed to making sure that everyone pays their fair share. But beyond going after the tax cheats and rooting out the corruption, we believe Government should recognise the good citizens who do their civic duty and pay their taxes honestly and on time. That’s what the Gold Card Premium program intends to do.

Government also has a duty in this regard: To make sure that taxes are fair and reasonable, to ensure that taxes do not take money that is  better used for private investment and job creation, and to ensure that taxes pay for things that Government is best placed to provide and are not used to displace private-sector activity.

Most of all, Government must never assume that it has an inherent right to a certain portion of the fruits of the people’s labour. When you give your money to the Government in the form of taxes, you empower the Government to make certain choices for you. Taxpayers do that willingly as long as Government is prudent in its spending.

When Government begins to feel entitled to more and more of your earnings, then it begins to take your freedom.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my Government believes that taxes are your willing contribution for the common good. We will never abuse that contribution.

Fiji survived the 2007 – 2009 Worldwide Financial Meltdown, and it survived because we carefully crafted our National Fiscal Policies and Strategies to stabilise Fiji’s vulnerable economy and solidify our revenue base.

In the 2012 Budget we made historic reductions to all tax rates, including both corporate and personal income tax rates. The reduction in personal tax rates redirected $53.1 million into the pockets of taxpaying Fijians.

We have reduced tax rates for 99 per cent of the individual taxpaying population, and we have also reduced customs-duty rates on items our economy needs in order to grow.

The reduction of the corporate tax rate from 28 per cent to 20 per cent basically means that businesses in Fiji have more money to reinvest in plant, equipment, and hiring. With the lowest corporate tax rates in the Pacific region, including Australia and New Zealand, there is no excuse not to pay your taxes.

So my Government has done its part to ensure that the tax contributions of Fijians are reasonable. We have acted with prudence, sensitivity, and good economic sense. Too much taxation can strangle an economy by taking too much money out of productive hands. Money that is invested in business produces jobs and growth, which produces revenue for the work of Government.

Government also is responsible for providing timely and accurate information, for responding promptly to taxpayers’ questions and appeals, and to make it easy for people to comply with the law. The new web site is a partial fulfilment of that responsibility.

Gold Card Premium Services are part of our bigger plan to recognise and reward people who have paid taxes and duties honestly and on time.

These people and institutions are helping to build this nation by stepping up to help pay for better roads, hospitals, and schools; to help keep us safe; and to help lift our fellow Fijians out of poverty.

I have also directed the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority (FRCA) to take their services closer to the people, which will improve compliance by making it easier for citizens to understand their obligations and pay their taxes.

In the coming weeks, FRCA’s Sigatoka and Rakiraki branches will be officially opened. I am also pleased to note that limited operations are already being carried out in both towns.

For the last year, the Customer Service Centre in Suva is served full-time by very senior customs and tax executives. This is to ensure that all customs and tax matters are resolved on timely basis.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2013 highlighted Fiji as one of the countries that made paying taxes easier and lowered tax burdens.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have made it easy for everyone to do your civic duty. And we expect every citizen to stand and be counted, to make their contribution to this nation by paying their taxes fully and on time. It’s easy; just obey the law.

Later this week, I will be announcing the 2013 National Budget. This will give all citizens the chance to judge whether we are good stewards of their tax dollars. I believe you will see that your tax contributions are well spent. You will see that the people are receiving good value when they entrust their hard-earned tax dollars to the Government.

As I have stated before, if everyone in Fiji paid their taxes and complied with our customs and tax laws, we could have a budget surplus and still provide more services. That is what we are striving for through more aggressive tax collection.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Government is listening to you. We are changing our processes to empower Fijians and modernise our economy. We will beat the odds because we are Fijians, we are Fiji. We are resilient.

With those words, I am proud to launch the Gold Card Premium Services and the revamped FRCA website.

Vinaka Vakalevu – thank you.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of the World Customs Organisation’s Regional Training Centre

Secretary General of the World Customs Organisation;

Members of the Diplomatic Corp;

Board Members of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority;

Head of the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) Secretariat;

Heads of Customs Administrations in the Region;

Invited Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I wish to welcome all those from abroad who have travelled to Fiji for this event. Although your visit to our shores may be short visit, I hope it will be memorable.

At the outset, I wish to thank the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and its Secretary General, Mr. Kurio Mikuriya, who has travelled from Brussels to be here today. The WCO has been unwavering in its support and recognition of Customs reforms in Fiji and the other Oceania Customs Organisations (OCO) members.

It was exactly three years ago when I spoke at the opening of this new Revenue & Customs Services Complex.  Today, we are here to celebrate the launch of the new WCO Regional Training Centre in Fiji.

That is tremendous progress, and it speaks to the pivotal role Fiji is playing in this region. Our central location makes Fiji a convenient hub for the South Pacific, and hosting the Customs Regional Training Centre in Fiji is a significant step towards greater regional collaboration.  It is a concrete sign of Fiji’s willingness to contribute in a major way to regional prosperity.

But I am proud to say that the quality and development of our infrastructure, the vigor of our institutions, and the skills and education of our workforce are equally important. Without those, Fiji would only be a potential hub, a potential regional leader, a potential source of economic growth for the region.

Now, potential is nice, but I prefer to see this country–and all of our neighbours–reach our potential. And more importantly, I prefer to see us set high expectations for our people and then surpass those expectations.

Of course, if we are to reach our potential and exceed our own high expectations, we need to demand competence of ourselves. We need to choose capable and energetic leaders. And we need to foster an environment of individual responsibility, integrity, and commitment to high standards. And all of us—all of the nations of the South Pacific—need to do this in lockstep. And that first locked step is uniform regional training.

Three years ago, the Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority (FRCA) began discussions with the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for the Asia Pacific Region on the viability of establishing a regional training center in Fiji for the Pacific region.  Strong support from our neighbours and the OCO helped make that idea a reality.

Regional Training Centres are a key component of regional capacity building. The regions are best placed to identify and respond to their country’s training needs, foster standardized practices among close neighbors and trading partners, and form links among Customs officials from neighbouring countries. And, of course, we can do more with our resources by working together than we can do individually.

The proposal to establish a RTC in Fiji is in line with FRCA’s strategic vision to be a leading revenue collection and border management agency and helping other Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) towards international best practice in Customs matters.

Training and training methodologies vary widely globally depending on the cultural dynamic of the society they serve.  Given that the OCO Secretariat is already located in Fiji, the launch of the RTC today would further enhance the development of Customs administration in the Pacific region, through the delivery of regionally relevant and adapted training and training services.

We also know of the huge challenges faced by Customs administrations today.

We live in a world in which trade has been revolutionized and our ability to move goods quickly and efficiently from one country to another must constantly catch up to the volume of trade. The proliferation of trade agreements means that we must constantly modernize and co-ordinate amongst neighbouring countries.  The changing nature of global production, with growing trade in intermediate goods and inputs, underscore the importance of having efficient customs administration at every stage of trade.

Certainly, trade in the Pacific region is on the rise, for all of us. My Government has been actively engaged with the international community in order to strengthen trading and formal diplomatic links, and has recently opened new embassies in South Africa, Brazil, and Korea, and will soon send a mission to the United Arab Emirates.

In our endeavor to boost trade, Fiji has also been negotiating Double Tax Agreements with a number of countries.

All of this presents challenges, particularly for developing countries. One of the main ones is the need to eliminate obstacles to moving goods across borders quickly, reliably and cheaply.  In most of the developing countries, the border control procedures have not kept pace with the changing trading environment.

There is also a great deal of unpredictability, partly because of a lack of automation and insufficient use of information technology. Modernization of Customs and other Government agencies and co-operation among them, are critical.

Customs administrations in developing countries are struggling to meet these constantly increasing demands and the new priorities being placed on them, and they urgently need to embrace reform and modernization.  This means an equally aggressive and permanent campaign to simplify and harmonize customs procedures, which will be the key to facilitating trade.

This also means, Ladies and Gentlemen, a campaign against corruption and fraud. We must not only put in place modern customs laws, but we must also diligently ensure compliance with those laws. Customs Officials are at the front line of revenue collection- they are our representatives at the borders. If they fail to uphold high standards and diligently perform their duties, they bleed the country of tax dollars that can be used to build hospitals, schools and roads.  We need to ensure that a system is in place where any sort of dishonest or fraudulent behavior is detected and reported, so that it can be met with the full force of the law to let it be known that we are serious about operating in a corruption-free environment.

In Fiji, we are aware that there are short-comings. That there is an opportunity to increase the efficiency and improve the organisation of our customs procedures. That there is a need for the Customs Authority to understand that it does not operate in isolation. That the failure to perform their duties effectively in a short amount of time can have a damaging knock-on effect in the economy.

Therefore, it is clear that this training centre is about much more than training Customs officials. Customs modernization is important precisely because it makes trade easier. And if it makes trade easier, it helps economies grow. And when economies grow more people work and prosper.

We are small, island countries that live by trade and that must expand trade in order to live better. We all are called on to play our part—Government, business, ordinary citizens, and you.

Customs officials, through this RTC, your governments and the WCO and OCO have committed to provide you with the tools you need to do what is needed: to modernize, to co-operate, to find creative uses for technology. And in the end, with those tools, you will help build the modern economy of this region. You will help build an integrated regional economy that creates opportunities for our children and encourages them to stay here and build prosperous lives.

I call on you also to remember that you do not work in isolation. You are part of a larger system and a larger process.

In Fiji, in the past, there has been a trend amongst certain sectors and certain groups to remain confined only to those forums that are seen to be directly relevant to them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, reform and development must be broad and encompass all areas of society. Reform in one area can be easily undermined or undone if it is not met by reform in other areas. In order to achieve comprehensive reform, all of us must adopt a wide vision and a broad focus. We must, each of us, see the big picture.

Because reform, Ladies and Gentlemen, is not simply a top-down process. Yes, it can start that way by establishing the appropriate frameworks and structures, such as the economic, electoral, and constitutional reforms put in place by my Government.

But reform must also be a bottom-up process. In order to truly penetrate to the very core of a society, it requires broad participation and active engagement by all. From all backgrounds. From all areas. From all professions. Young and old, women and men alike.

With those words, I wish the Regional Training Centre well, and it is with great pleasure that I declare the RTC officially open.

Thank you and vinaka vakalevu.