Six hours at Rwanda Revenue Authority

This is the second circle of Rwanda’s bureaucratic hell. It took me the best part of two hours to navigate the first circle. Once that was done, I had a third and final waiting room to navigate before finally getting my hands on a shiny new 2010 car tax disk.

In all, my first experience of paying taxes at the Rwanda Revenue Authority took a total of 6 hours from start to finish. In that time, I shuffled from chair to chair from the billing office, where I collected my bill (2 hours), round the corner to “the bank” to pay said bill (3 hours), and finally to present my receipt in a third office so I could collect my car tax disk (1 hour).

I reckon I must have sat on at least 400 different chairs as I, along with several hundred, possibly thousands, of Rwandans moved slowly from chair to chair through the three separate departments during the 6 hour period.

I’m told many Rwandans pay someone to do the waiting for them. I’m glad I didn’t, even if I am utterly knackered right now as a result. It’s good to learn how things work here – I’m used to pretty much everything from restaurants, banks, hairdressers and drivers being slow in Rwanda, but the Rwanda Revenue Authority took slow to a new low today. 6 hours…

In all fairness to the tax authorities, everyone who turned up to pay their end of year taxes today left it way too late – the deadline for tax payments is March 31st. And, as of 10 March only 30% had coughed up the sobs. Moral of the story: to avoid the three circles of hell, pay your taxes early, like in January.

But Rwanda… maybe a one-stop – not a three-stop – shop might make more sense? And a few more cashier’s desks? And how about some entertainment? Puppets? Dancing? Jugglers? How about a picture or two on the wall? Or maybe just a bucketful of Mogadon to mong out for a while. My advice, take a book, a big book. And a packed lunch.

PS. Interestingly, for car tax disk fans the world over, this year’s disk is all in English. Last year’s was all in French.

UPDATE: Today, 31st March, is the last day for people to make the tax deadline. And it does not sound like a fun experience:

Today is the final day for paying all taxes across the country and thousands of taxpayers have been flocking several offices in Kigali City to clear their taxes to avoid penalties.

Yesterday afternoon, Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) head offices in Kimihurura, was crowded by thousands of taxpayers, some saying that they had lined up for days.

“I have been coming here since Monday, but the big number of people has made it difficult for me to clear the taxes,” Daniel Makombe, one of the taxpayers at the RRA head office said.

“I have been here since morning, but up to now, I have failed to make it inside to pay,” Phoebe Kayitesi, another taxpayer said. “I don’t know if I will clear today or tomorrow…but I will keep on trying.” link

Photograph taken from the Kigali Wire Flickr account.

10 Responses to “Six hours at Rwanda Revenue Authority”

  1. Sangwa says:

    eh ! what about the delays at banque populaire,that’s why i treasure my ipod en smartphone.i can do ssomething during those waiting times

  2. kigaliwire says:

    You, me, both… I played Angry Birds on the iPhone for a good while. And tweeted, of course. The there’s RSS and email. I do feel sorry for those folk who arrived empty handed.

    No smartphone? Bring a REALLY good book :)

  3. Eric Taylor says:

    I’m glad I took care of this early! Last year I was a month late and payed dearly for it (literally, the fines were crazy). I have had the “pleasure” of sitting in those chairs several times now, and even on a day where things are moving at a decent pace, the back and forth between offices and the bank is painful.

  4. kigaliwire says:

    Definitely going in January next year. I guess the problem for a lot of folk is they might not have the “spare cash” in January, keep on holding out til the last minute.

    As grim as the experience was, it sounds even grimmer as of today:

    “Today is the final day for paying all taxes across the country and thousands of taxpayers have been flocking several offices in Kigali City to clear their taxes to avoid penalties.

    Yesterday afternoon, Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) head offices in Kimihurura, was crowded by thousands of taxpayers, some saying that they had lined up for days.

    “I have been coming here since Monday, but the big number of people has made it difficult for me to clear the taxes,” Daniel Makombe, one of the taxpayers at the RRA head office said.

    “I have been here since morning, but up to now, I have failed to make it inside to pay,” Phoebe Kayitesi, another taxpayer said. “I don’t know if I will clear today or tomorrow…but I will keep on trying.” ”

    http://www.newtimes.co.rw/index.php?issue=14216&article=27567

  5. Josh says:

    I’ve spent many hours sitting in chairs in RRA…even when it’s not tax payment season. It all goes back to this policy not permitting any government employee ever to accept cash, which then necessitates the “three long waits” service model you describe above (one wait to get the bill for whatever you owe, one wait to pay the commercial bank who handles the government’s accounts, and the third to present the receipt proving you’ve taken care of everything). It’s one way to cut down on corruption opportunities, and seems to work. But at what cost? I’d love to see an analysis by a reputable economist of the cost-benefit ratio of all the anti-corruption measures in Rwanda. In addition to the Three Long Waits, we’ve got the intense yearly audits of all government agencies, the regular investigations of top officials for minor offenses, etc… At what point does the slow-down in efficiency overtake the savings in corruption reduction?

  6. kigaliwire says:

    There’s a PhD in this. Not a PhD I’d ever want to do, mind you.

  7. Nalynat says:

    oh how I dreaded those lines at RRA and pretty much every bank in Kigali. you are pretty much right. I had to have either a book, or a book of Sudoku exercises, an ipod didn’t do much because I needed to preocupy myself…

  8. ginno says:

    Hi,

    RRA is a nightmare when it comes to the last day to pay taxes. The shame is that RRA is pushing the responsibility to taxpayers! I can understand that taxpayers coming at once on the last day is a problem, but for years RRA knows this! Therefore it is not a surprise to them.

    @Josh
    You forgot one more step: to go to RRA to get a form printed for you! Never understood why!

  9. Modi Eubin says:

    Look guys, You should not be surprised by the RRA alone. Take a tour in any of the government offices, you will find that this is a tradition. Queuing and waiting for hour and days is never a concern to RRA so long as you have to meet your obligation. It really hurts to waste days waiting to clear your taxes. But isn’t it wise to pay your taxes right on time so that you don’t inconvenience yourself. I must say that RRA is not going to ease this kind of pain, this serves automatically as a self penalty so that next time you intend to clear your taxes, you do it right on time.
    Here, i will blame the RRA for not reserving a separate counter to cater for delayed taxes, or even assign different banks to accept tax monies from the public. RRA must as well introduce an electronic queuing systems to ease the influx, so that people don’t move from chair to chair. RRA can as well introduce electronic card systems to corporations and individuals to ease this kind of problems. All in all, just pay your taxes on time, you will not suffer the way you did.

  10. Kantamage Patricia says:

    I propose that RRA make forms to be downloaded at RRA web site. Then people can fill it up before coming to the offices and queue only for payment.

    Patricia