From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Tunde Fowler, yesterday disclosed that it generated N3.3 trillion in tax revenue for the country in 2016.
Fowler made the disclosure in Abuja at a training for Finance journalists on tax reporting. According to him, the figure was commendable judging from the scorching economic climate of 2016.
He said: “FIRS performed the feat of N3.303 trillion collection in a challenged economy, in a year when oil prices dropped to less than $50 a barrel for over nine months and when the value of stocks on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) fell drastically while purchasing power was slim. The average oil price was about $100 per barrel between 2012 and 2015.
“To do this, the FIRS implemented waiver of interest and penalty as part of the efforts to promote voluntary compliance and shield tax payers from the burden of carrying forward tax liabilities that rose from penalty and interest.
“The FIRS successfully implemented a waiver of interest and penalty for three years (2013 to 2015). The Service, by this new idea, has so far realised N27 billion,” Fowler explained.
The FIRS boss also disclosed that by expanding the tax next with a massive nationwide registration exercise of new tax payers, “the result is the registration of 814,000 additional taxpayers by December 2016 by FIRS and 3.4 million taxpayers by State Internal Revenue Services (SIRSs). By December last year, Nigeria had a national tax roll of 14 million.”
The federal tax revenue collector also attributed last year’s tax revenue target to the ease of tax payment. According to Fowler, “considering convenience, proximity and ease of tax payment, the service asked taxpayers to file their tax returns at the FIRS offices nearest to them. This novel idea increased compliance as it eased the burden of taxpayers who have had to travel from far places to pay their taxes.”
Another reason for the 2016 tax performance, Fowler said, was the “improved collaboration with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) to ensure that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) remit taxes such as Withholding Tax (WHT) and Value Added Tax (VAT) promptly through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).”
GIFMIS is an IT-based system for budget management and accounting used to improve public expenditure management processes, enhance greater accountability and transparency across MDAs.
Other factors that aided the FIRS in raising the impressive N3.3 trillion tax revenue, Fowler said, included collaboration with the Joint Tax Board and State Internal Revenue Services on several fronts such as taxpayer enlightenment; tax enforcement and registration of new taxpayers; tax education, enlightenment and media campaigns; inter-agency collaboration with other government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS); Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC); the Immigration Service and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), is being strengthened.”
Integrated Stamp Duties Services (ISDS) portal for ease of tax payment, “was introduced by the Service for a purpose-built stamp duty portal that facilitates the online assessment and payment of stamp duties by Nigerian taxpayers. A stamp duties co-ordination was created as part of the standard FIRS structure, while commissioners of stamp duties were appointed,” Fowler said.
The FIRS, Fowler said, “is convinced that with progressive application of technology, persuasion and enforcement on recalcitrant taxpayers, and partnership with key stakeholders like the press, we will collect enough revenue for the nation in 2017.”
One of the facilitators, Mr. Mark Abani, used the opportunity to reiterate that it was illegal for state and local governments to mount roadblock on highways for the purposes of collecting tax from travellers.
He enjoined members of the public to stand up for their rights and resist such illegality by refusing to make such payments and seek legal redress in court.