Uche Usim, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday said he would lay a sound taxation framework in his administration’s drive to diversify the nation’s revenue source.
He also urged the National Assembly to pass the Tax Amendment Bill expected to address the challenges confronting the Nigerian tax system.
Speaking through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Mahmoud Isah-Dutse, at the opening of the 21st Annual Tax Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Buhari described a robust tax system as a prerequisite for any economy that is desirous and genuinely committed to growth and development, even as he expressed displeasure towards the level of tax compliance.
He said, “as part of our drive to increase non-oil revenue, we have set an aggressive target for increasing tax collection. The current level of compliance to tax payment in Nigeria is low and in some cases, the effective tax rate paid by those that are compliant is lower than expected.
“Tax collection must grow in line with growth in the economy but this has not been the case in Nigeria and that is our challenge.”
He added that his administration was sufficiently informed of the loopholes, lack of transparency and accountability in times past that discouraged Nigerians from paying taxes and assured of changing the narrative by ensuring judicious use of funds through the strict enforcement of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
Also speaking at the occasion, the President of CITN, Cyril Ede, said that Nigeria can no longer effectively rely on oil revenue to invest in critical national infrastructure, boost the economy, promote investment and fund governance.
“Therefore, we must promote taxation as the most sustainable means of addressing our resource mobilisation challenge,” he added.
In his keynote address, Mr. Tony Elumelu, Chairman of United Bank for Africa Plc, said, “our tax to GDP ratio is only 6 per cent. There are only 75,000 registered businesses in Nigeria. 75 per cent of Nigerians believe it is not wrong not to pay tax and this is majorly because the average Nigerian business owner is like a local government of its own. Supplying himself all the basic amenities he needs such as power, security and water, he thereby sees no justification in paying tax.”
He further revealed that people refuse to pay tax because they have lost confidence in the government that their monies would be used for their own good. He thus suggested that multiple taxation be eliminated to encourage small and medium scale business owners and that the government should leverage on technology such as the mobile phone to make it easier and faster for people to pay their taxes.