Tax Crimes Commission Bill Passes Second Reading 

House of Reps

Tax Crimes Commission Bill Passes Second Reading 

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill seeking the establishment of the National Tax Crimes Commission to address revenue leakages in tax management and administration in the country.

When established, the bill sponsored by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu, and eight other lawmakers, seeks to checkmate irregularities in the assessment, reporting, and remittance of taxes, prevent and tackle all tax-related infractions, while simultaneously protecting the rights of tax payers.

Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, member representing Eleme/Oyigbo/Tai Federal Constituency, Rivers State, Felix Nweke, argued that the ability of a government to discharge services to the people is proportional to the availability of resources at its disposal.

He said, “Effective tax administration is a pointer to how far a nation can ensure her growth and development. While taxation is considered the most important means of generating public revenue, it is worthy of note that nations that strive to develop aim at putting in place a fair, just, efficient, and simplified tax administration system that builds confidence amongst the citizens and as well motivate and encourage citizens to pay their taxes.

“While it is one thing to fix the amount of taxes to be paid, it is another for tax collection authorities and assessors to determine the right amount of taxes to be paid in accordance with the provisions of extant tax laws. Leakages occur when unscrupulous staff and agents of tax authorities collude with citizens to under-assess the tax-payer thereby resulting in underpayment.

“Leakages occur in the form of tax evasion, especially such that is encouraged and condoned by the tax collector and more especially, among multinational corporations operating within the country.

“Leakages also occur where there are non-remittances of collected taxes. That is to say, where the government does not get the total amount of taxes collected as a result of revenue diversion by fraudulent staff of tax authorities- the list is endless.”

Nweke also maintained poor tax governance system results in the people and businesses bearing the burden as has been the case in Nigeria in the past few decades.

“Some citizens, especially small businesses bear the twin burden of either over-assessment or multiple taxation. This stifles the business environment and this does not allow small businesses, ordinarily considered as the engine of growth, to survive. Not only are our tax laws not very friendly to micro, small, and medium enterprises, but such MSMEs suffer more from the activities of the tax collectors.”

He argued that to effectively tackle and prevent international tax evasion and other transnational organized crimes and abuses of the nation’s public finance system, there is a need to establish an Independent Tax Crimes and Oversight Commission, which will have the capacity to investigate, audit, prevent and combat tax-related crimes.

He said, ‘This will contribute to our national security through the prevention of tax-related crimes, the prevention of illicit financial flow derived from tax evasion, international tax schemes, cybercrime, etc.

Nweke further argued that when established, the commission would not function as a law court, will not duplicate the functions of the Tax Appeal Tribunals established by section 59(1) of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2007 and “Will not be saddled with any form of quasi-judicial functions.

He continued, “The commission will primarily focus on the oversight of the tax administration system, ensuring that the tax authorities discharge their duties within the ambit of the laws: protecting, promoting and guaranteeing taxpayer’s rights, where necessary ensuring the prosecution of corrupt and fraudulent tax officials, ensuring the complete remittances of all public revenues, ensuring the increase of public Revenue not through introduction or increment of taxes but through friendly and appropriate taxation, among other things.

“The commission will ultimately ensure that the five basic qualities of a good tax system, which include fairness, adequacy. Simplicity, transparency, and administrative ease are entrenched as part of global best practices.

“Similar independent tax auditing and investigating organizations exist in other countries, such as the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration of the United States and the Inspector General of Taxation and Ombudsman of Australia. Similar Organizations exist in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, among others.

“There is a need to put in place an effective system which oversees tax administration in Nigeria, a system which can address taxpayers’ grievances and complaints promptly and without hassles; a system which will be so friendly and that can encourage and raise people’s willingness to pay their taxes.”