The latest notice from the revenue and customs department (DRC), around 6:30pm yesterday, requested taxpayers to complete filing the personal income tax (PIT) before midnight if in the draft stage. RAMIS was online and many could do it.
According to the department, more than 57,200 taxpayers have filed their returns. Looking at past records, it is a good number even with all the problems. Last year, 58, 347 had filed their PIT. There were 7,178 non-filers. From the records, only 1,147 had not managed to file their returns. The figure will change by today and there will not be many who, despite the problem in the online system, will have failed to file excluding non-filers.
However, there were still complaints of not being able to file because of “system error” or “RAMIS error- USROOX.” The number should not be significant if we look at the past year’s record unless the number of tax filers increased significantly within a year.
Bhutanese are known for leaving things until the eleventh hour. That is why we see the last-minute rush at the tax office. It could be because of a system error or leaving filing to the last minute. However, should there be late filers, there should be considerations. It is not entirely their fault. The online system had been problematic from the beginning. The evidence is there in the apologies the department made on its social media page.
When the system was restored, the thousands logging in overwhelmed it. To be fair to the last-minute filers, the DRC should consider filing late- beyond February 28, the last date. Extending it to March 30 is a fair deal.
On January 29, the DRC announced that RAMIS is online. Not many could access it or file their returns. Some are calling for accountability. The DRC has a shortage of people. They have lost people to Australia and the limited tax officials are overwhelmed with the assessment. But that cannot be an excuse. If they can penalise people for not paying their taxes on time, they should be penalised for failing to keep the system up when people had time to file their returns. Those waiting for refunds are calling for penalties – in the form of interest on their refund, like the DRC imposing penalties for late or not filing tax.
Meanwhile, what happened with the DRC and its online system is a reminder of our shortcomings in leveraging technology to make our lives easier. Going digital has been the focus in the last many years. We are yet to ride on digital technology to make things easier whether it is filing taxes or getting a permit or license. We build systems and then end up walking to the office to get them done. We pay our bills online and end up calling busy customer care officers to check if the transaction was successful.
Going digital is one thing. Making it work is another. The problem today is keeping our online systems up and running. An error is in hiring consultants to develop systems and not being able to fix them when they break down. If riding on technology is the way forward, we have to build our capacity to develop and fix system errors.