Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) have lamented that over 81% of taxable adults and businesses in Nigeria do not pay their taxes due to low-tax moral in the country.
This is even as they regretted that the penalties for non-payment of taxes in Nigeria were not only unhurtful and not punitive enough, but that the processes of penalising reluctant taxpayers were selective.
This was disclosed during a presentation made by Research Director of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable of the NESG, Mr Tayo Oyedele, on Wednesday at the NGF Secretariat in Abuja.
Oyedele, who was in company of the Chairman of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable (FPR), Dr Sarah Alade, during a courtesy call on the Director-General of NGF, Mr. Asishana Okauru, to solicit an opportunity to expose this sour narrative to the nation’s governors and seek their involvement to correct the ills that are denying the country of its collectible revenues.
Oyedele, who condemned the seeming national apathy of Nigerians on payment of taxes, said that figures available revealed that there were 20 million registered taxpayers in the country, saying this was paltry compared to nearly 200 million people.
While explaining the concept and reasons adduced to the nation’s low tax moral, the NESG noted that nearly 85 percent of those who deem it unnecessary to pay taxes to the government willingly pay same to “non-government actors.”
Oyedele attributed this to the distrust that pervades the environment when it comes to paying taxes, dues and levies to a government that does not command the public’ trust.
He disclosed that of the tiers of government on whose shoulders tax collection is reposed, local governments and their officials are among the most untrustworthy, followed by state governments and then the tax officials themselves.
“Many believe that it is unwise to pay taxes to entities that do not translate taxes to services or to officials who diverted same to personal use,” Oyedele divulged, while insisting that there were nonetheless 17 percent of the population who see the payment of taxes as a civic duty which all must perform.
He maintained that there were 354 taxes in Nigeria, which create duplicity of taxes and favouritism on where to audit and where not to audit, not minding the unprofessional conduct of tax collectors, who sometimes threaten the public.
Oyedele therefore recommended that the country minimised its tax regimes from 354 to only 10.
He said according to the research by the NESG, personal income taxpayers would have been happier to pay their taxes if education, health and infrastructural provision were raised to global standards, while corporate taxpayers would love to see electricity, roads and security improved.
The Director-General of the NGF on his part viewed the situation as a looming calamity which must be addressed forthwith, while thanking the NESG group for bringing this horrendous narrative to the knowledge of the forum.