I’m not a ‘tax collector’, says Omoigui Okauru

She is the nation’s Chief Tax Collector.
But Executive Chairman Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui Okauru stunned the audience in Abuja yesterday when she declared that she is not a tax collector.
 
Hear her: “When people ask what my job is, I said I am not a tax collector. Nor a tax administrator.

My job is to provide funds for the development of the country. Last week, I lost an uncle, at a rather young age of 81. He could have lived. But doctors are on strike. They said they want improved pay. Everybody do. Labour is asking for improved pay. Everybody is. My job is to provide funds for the needs of our country. It is to provide funds for the development of the country. It is to provide funds that will enable teachers to earn the pay that is  commensurate with their toil, improve quality of life, improve standard of living of the people, pay staff salaries and fund the nation’s security,’
 
Omogui spoke at the 2011 Enlarged Management Meeting held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
 
At the same event, Finance Minister Dr. Olusegun Aganga promised to support FIRS all its needs to attain its targets as long as the Service could generate the revenue that the nation needs.  He described FIRS as an institution living the cannons of integrity which its expouses: “Today, the FIRS is regarded as a premier government institution, where merit and excellence are in the forefront”.
 
The FIRS Chairman said the Service collected N2.83 trillion, some N300 billion above the target of N2.5 trillion. Said the FIRS Chairman: “When we met last year at about this time last year, it was a very uncertain period for our country. The world economy was only beginning to recover from the global economy crisis, oil production and oil prices were beginning to pick up, likewise the Banking reforms commenced by the Central Bank of Nigeria was still taking shape and there were fears as to what outlook the FIRS should take in respect of our projections for tax collection for the year.  There were those who felt we should be conservative, while some felt we should take an optimistic view of happenings.
 
“We decided against most of the negative forecasts for the Nigerian and its impact on the tax system and took a very optimistic position.  Today we have been vindicated and I wish to announce to this gathering that last year the Federal Inland Revenue Service as against a target of N2.5 trillion collected N2.83 trillion as total tax collection.  This was an increment of about 13% above our projected revenue and almost 30% over the total collection of N2.197 trillion for 2009. For this impressive performance, let humbly request that we applaud ourselves.    
 
“This performance was possible because of the support and commitment which we got from Government, in particular Mr. President, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Ministry of Finance, which was very instrumental in obtaining required approvals from FEC for key projects and events of the FIRS.  We also indebted to all other agencies of Government, which contributed in one way or the other, development agencies, the Joint Tax Board and more importantly our esteemed taxpayers who fulfilled their obligations to their nation Nigeria.
 
“Other than our collection targets which we surpassed, 2010 was a landmark year for the FIRS in many ways.  2010 saw the approval of the National Tax Policy by the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council. This was the first time Nigeria as a country was putting out a formal document as its policy on taxation and laying a foundation for the development of the Nigerian tax system at all levels.  In 2010, the Tax Appeal Tribunals were inaugurated by the Honourable Minister of Finance and created a formal administrative appeal process for aggrieved taxpayers for the first time since the passage of the FIRS (Establishment) Act in 2007.
 
“Last year also saw the FIRS host the 31st Annual Technical Conference of the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators, the largest organization for tax administrations in the world for the second time in the history of the tax administration in Nigeria. We also hosted the Annual Conference of the Value Added Tax Administrations in Africa.  Last year also saw the FIRS increasingly assume a prominent position in the international tax circles.
 
“In this respect, the FIRS played a leading role in the African Tax Administrations Forum (ATAF) leading to the signing of the ATAF Articles of Association. This in turn led to the signing of a cooperation agreement with South Africa and hopefully other African countries in due course. We were also active in the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Co-operation in Tax Matters. The first ever meeting of the Sub- Committee on Capacity Building (a sub-committee, which I chair) was held here in Abuja.
 
“We also participated actively in all the sub-committee’s activities leading to the Sixth Meeting of the Committee which was held in Geneva and where I presented the report of the sub-committee to the Committee of the whole.  Activities of the committee border in strengthening amongst others our skills in transfer pricing, tax treaty negotiation and other areas that border on improving international cooperation in tax matters. We launched the website to further this cause, and we encourage all tax administrators to access and contribute to the improvement of the website at www.s4tp.org.
 
The FIRS Chairman also announced that the Service took an important step towards automation of its operations. “We also obtained several approvals with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance for various landmark projects including the Unique Taxpayer Identification (UTIN) Project which we are doing in collaboration with State and Local Governments under the auspices of the Joint Tax Board to develop for the first time a national taxpayer database, the Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS) Project, which is probably the most ambitious project to be undertaken in the history of the FIRS.
 
“ITAS project seeks to introduce an integrated and fully automated system of tax administration, whereby all core tax processes are automated and there is a seamless interface between all functions within the tax administration.
 
“Within the year, we also strengthened our enforcement arm, which lead to several arrests and convictions of tax offenders and the recovery of significant amounts of taxes from such offenders. We have so far secured thirteen convictions and still counting.
 
The EMM provides an opportunity FIRS Management staff to objectively review its performance for the past year, applaud where it has done well and knock itself where it has fallen short, set agenda  for the year map out the necessary strategies for meeting  expectations.

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