Inside Look: Tech-Driven Tax Reform in Taunggyi, Myanmar
Visiting the field with The Asia Foundation, The Renaissance Institute and Koe Koe Tech to learn more about our pilot project to digitize government tax collection.
The city of Taunggyi sits on the top of a hill not far from the famous shores of Inle Lake, Myanmar. We visited the area as part of a team from The Asia Foundation, The Renaissance Institute, and Koe Koe Tech to check in on a pilot project that is digitizing the tax collection process for district governments.
One of the largest challenges facing public finance in Myanmar is tax collection. By some estimates, regional governments collect less than 10% of their potential tax base. The pilot project in Taunggyi uses a mobile app built by Koe Koe Tech to address the underlying issues of tax collection in the country and increase the revenues that fund crucial public services ranging from infrastructure to trash collection.
Koe Koe Tech’s tax solution focuses on an Android-based app that runs on smartphones and tablets. The system allows Development Assistance Organizations (DAO’s) to manage all records digitally, record payment status, and digitize tens of thousands of paper tax forms. Its broad platform can be used to collect property taxes, water fees, and business license applications electronically. The new system enables the biannual tax collection to be completed three times faster than was previously possible.
Another significant improvement Koe Koe Tech’s software has provided is in the time necessary to complete property tax collection. According to DAO staff, a process that used to take six months now takes just two. The vast majority of paperwork can be completed digitally through the app.
Local tax collectors say the biggest improvements with the new technology are a reduction in paperwork and an increase in the tax base — resulting from new property registration. Before the new smartphone & tablet-driven system, staff had to stamp 25,000 individual sheets of paper over the course of each six month collection period. Now, an automated system prints single page receipts with an electronic signature.
According to senior DAO and government officials, trash collection is another major concern for local citizens in Taunggyi. Many go to the local DAO’s Facebook page to highlight specific areas issues with current trash collection. The team ran a training session to show local DAO staff how to track the city’s illegal trash dumps using Google Maps and better respond to citizens’ complaints in specific parts of the city.
The team’s joint efforts include an emphasis on the need to tie tax rates to inflation, so that the growth of the DAO’s expenses doesn’t outpace its revenue. This remains one of several challenges for the local government in addition to registering all remaining households and updating property valuations.
Because of these issues like limited registration data, the average property tax in Taunggyi is equivalent to the cost of two cups of tea every six months.
Through Koe Koe Tech’s application, DAOs are able to address these underlying challenges, improve the district tax process, and expand their funds for public services.
As the DAO Executive Officer U Aye Ko told us, the Koe Koe Tech app “increases the efficiency and improves the accuracy of our tax records. That means more revenue.”
Photographs by Steele Burrow. Select images by Asia Foundation staff.
To learn more about Koe Koe Tech’s social impact technology in Myanmar, visit www.koekoetech.com.