Over 30m Nigerians Refuse To Pay Tax ― DG Budget, Akabueze
Over 30 million Nigerians who are generating taxable incomes are not paying tax, compounding the effort of government to broaden its revenue, the Director-General of Budget Office (DG), Dr Ben Akabueze, has lamented.
Speaking at an interactive forum with the media and civil society organisations in Abuja at the weekend, he also said that it is not viable for the government to cut down recurrent expenditure.
Akabueze said out of about 70 million active Nigerians, only about 41 million are on the tax pool.
He also regretted that Nigerians do not pay property tax, while he noted that discussion around it is uncomfortable because even policymakers own properties.
He said: “Today, if you take Nigeria’s demographics, there are about 70 million people in the active population and even if you’re just for the unemployment rate, there are about 70 million Nigerians generating taxable income and should be contributing to the tax pool no matter how little.
“But the total number of Nigerians in the tax pool by the Joint Tax Board record is about 41 million. So, there are about 30 million Nigerians out there not paying fair share.
“And because of the gross informality of our economy, it’s difficult…and in the absence of a unique identifier for Nigerians, now there’s need to try to address that.
“But you see, it’s difficult. And there are lots of people, anonymous people making tons of money in this economy, paying no taxes.
“So, how do we bring these people to pay their fair share? We have properties all over the place. Some of the people who own these properties pay no tax. And yet, this country really doesn’t have a national property tax regime.
“Even in a few states that have property tax, enforcement and implementation is a problem.
“It goes back to this thing that we all don’t want to have this inconvenient discussion because even policymakers are part of the property owners. People don’t want to address that. Someone must push whatever.”
The DG said in some economies far larger than Nigeria, up to 65 per cent of their budgets are funded by property tax, saying: “So, we can’t run away from the fact that we all need to be paying.”
Akabueze noted that the Federal Government cannot cut down recurrent expenditure in line with calls from certain quarters, saying that taking such actions will not amount to a significant reduction in the budget deficit.
He said what is more viable is to fix revenues to make more money available to government.
The DG also defended the current borrowing by the federal government, noting that reducing borrowing will mean that government will spend less.
While insisting that the federal government’s borrowing is within sustainable limits, he said the federal government is assets-rich and will sell if necessary to pay back debts.