The chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) who doubles as the boss of Joint Tax Board (JTB), Mrs Ifueko Imigui Okauru has vowed that tax defaulters would henceforth be sanctioned to serve as deterrent for others just as unremitted taxes of agencies reach N200bn.
Speaking at the North East region enlarged management and Town Hall Meeting of the FIRS, she said: “Where the FIRS identifies persons who refuse to comply with tax laws, we will have no option but to apply the necessary sanctions under our laws. “We however hope that this would not be necessary and that when next we converge we will be discussing the success story of tax collection in the North East region.”
Represented at the occasion by Co-ordinating Director, Tax Operation Group in the Service, Mr. Samuel Olugbesun, the FIRS Boss urged staffs of the FIRS to find ways of addressing the long standing issue of arrears, treatment of tax defaulters, enforcement issues and relationship management, stressing that they should ensure a good working relationship with the tax payers.
At the meeting whose theme was: “Improving Tax Yield Through Tax Base Expansion” she pointed out that the commitment of the staffs to their work became imperative because the management was making efforts to improve their lot in terms of training, staff welfare, payment of performance bonus, recruitment, upgrading of staff, provision of operational vehicles and conducive working environment, among others.
The meeting was aimed at enhancing interaction with the management and staff with a view to knowing their problems and solution proffered.
At another stakeholders’ consultative meeting with heads of Finance and Accounts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) held in Abuja also represented by Ogungbesan, she that the debt owed federal government as taxes by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) has increased to N212 billion.
Mrs. Omogui-Okauru criticised some financial institutions for withholding taxes paid by government agencies through them stated that the debt has increased from N64 billion in 2004 to N212 billion in 2010 of which 50 percent of the debt constituted penalties on the taxes.
She also accused government agencies for not remitting the taxes when the money had been deducted at source. She said: "Ministries, Departments and Agencies build VAT into contracts but they don’t pay the VAT to government, which means, shortchanging the government."
Mrs Omogui-Okauru noted that personal income tax was another major means of owing government, adding companies evade taxes. She said the only way to ensure total compliance to tax payment by MDAs was to send tax clearance support officers from the SFIRS to MDAs to work with the heads of Finance and Accounts and ensure that taxes are remitted to the government coffers.
She explained that the aim of deploying tax officer to MDAs was not to monitor the officers or take over their jobs but to assist them in discharging of their duties. While stating that tax clearance certificate was not the only requirement for the award of contracts, Omogui-Okauru said Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN) was also necessary, even as she warned MDAs against using their TIN to award contracts to organisations.
Also in his remarks the Deputy Director, Tax Compliance Support Desk, Mr Etim Bassey observed that that since the commencement of the tax reform in 2004, FIRS has introduced various strategies to improve tax compliance in the country. Among such strategies are enlightenment workshop and occasional visits to ensure that relevant tax information was made available to stakeholders.