The Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service FIRS, Mrs. Ifueko Omogui-Okauru disclosed this in Lagos in a chat with the Press. She regretted that Non Government Organizations (NGOs) that are also supposed to pay tax are not doing so. It is an aberration.
According to her, “Nigerian law recognizes that you are supposed to pay tax except only to the extent of your involvement in charitable activities. What Lagos is doing with religious bodies is law. The law has been there all these while. If a church or mosque is involved in doing business it is subject to pay tax and there is no law that says because you are working in a church and you are earning salary you are not subject to tax.”
Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru also urged states to encourage and motivate their tax officers in the collection of tax instead of giving the responsibility to consultants. She said: “It is not the responsibility of consultant to collect tax. It is the job of tax officers to do that. I am completely opposed to this because it is a way of mortgaging the future of this country. If tax officers are not doing well, remove and replace them. The duty of a consultant is to advice, conduct training. When I assumed my position at FIRS, I received about 90 proposals from consultants, asking me to allow them to collect tax on my behalf with some percentage acceding to them but I asked them to come and train my staff, they ran away.”
The FIRS boss said FIRS cannot stop states from introducing levies that are peculiar to the state. “We can’t stop a state from introducing additional levies which are peculiar to the states, provided it does not conflict with the federal levies. It is when it conflict with federal levies that there will be problem. Those taxes are peculiar to the states and we are advising them to codify. If a state decides to introduce 100 levies that are peculiar to it , it is between the citizens and the state, when there is problem is when it is in conflict with the federal levies because it becomes a double tax”, she said
She said currently it is difficult to harmonized all the taxes being paid by tax payers in states and federal levels but stressed that what the FIRS and the state governments can do is to ensure that tax payers are not double tax. She disclosed that a sum of N54.4bn was discovered to be the total outstanding tax liabilities, interests and penalties, owed by States, Local Governments and their Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
She said that the liabilities arose because tax agents in the states and local governments, appointed under the relevant tax laws, failed or refused to deduct and when they deducted, refused to remit what they deducted wholly or in part. She said that the issue of unremitted tax arrears was a major one affecting the efforts of FIRS to increase tax revenues. According to her, “whereas these amounts are withheld and not remitted to the proper coffers, we are depriving all other tiers of government including ourselves of revenue. We therefore need to tackle the problem of unremitted taxes collected by ministries, departments and agencies.”
She regretted that several efforts have been made in that direction, including requesting the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct these unremitted taxes at source.
Mrs. Omoigui-Okauru also disclosed that over sixty thousand applicants had applied to fill 1,000 available job vacancies in FIRS with pressures coming from different quarters for absorption of the candidates. She said what has made FIRS strong was that it has been a focus organisation, adding that the whole essence of the recruitment is to build an institution that will have the right people with proper system and right network.
According to her: “We have been under intense pressure. In order to manage the pressure, we have concluded that everybody must do a test and as a result of that we are going to conduct test for close to 60,000 people. But we started with our internal search, we concluded that in July and the rest have been made available to the general public and we are about to do that now and this will be completed by December this year. Our intention is to select the best.”
FIRS chairman said the revenue collection agency has embarked on restructuring of tax collection system with the introduction of Tax Identification number (TIN). She saidTIN has been gazetted for the banks since last year, and it has become fully operational.
She said the agency would soon embark on campaign against tax certificate forgery, stressing that forging of tax certificates is on the increase. According to her out of 20 cases of forged certificates discovered only one has been prosecuted.
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