From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami, on Friday clarified that his agency did not grant any tax waivers to any local or foreign investors in the country as the FIRS Act did not empower it to grant such tax breaks.
This is as the agency launched an online portal to check the activities of fraudsters who specialise in selling cloned Tax Clearance Certificates (TCCs).
Speaking in Abuja during his appearance before the House of Representatives’ Public Accounts Committee investigating alleged tax waivers granted to Indorama Petrochemical, Indorama Fertilizer and Petrochemical Ltd and OIS Indorama Eleme Port-Harcourt, the FIRS boss said: “The FIRS does not have the power or responsibility of facilitating or implementing incentives for local investors or investors coming through the Foreign Direct Investment platform, which is the sole prerogative of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC)”.
Nami pointed out that “the investigation of the three foreign firms, Indorama Petrochemical, Indorama Fertilizer and Petrochemical Limited and OIS Indorama Eleme Port-Harcourt, started way back in 2015. The committee in charge of the investigation has consistently been furnished with all required documents by the FIRS”. He further stated that the companies under consideration “have been variously granted pioneer status between December 15th, 1997 to 2016 for the Indorama Petrochemical Ltd and between 2017 – 2020 for the Indorama Fertilizer and Chemicals Ltd respectively”. According to him “upon expiration of the pioneer period and conclusion of post pioneer Audit, the Indorama Petrochemical Ltd company’s tax file was returned to the Large Tax Office (LTO) Port Harcourt. Thus far, the company has filed its annual returns up to 31st December 2019 with relevant Self-Assessment and paid its attendant liabilities”.
He, therefore, pleaded with the Public Accounts Committee “to always avail itself of the opportunity to work closely with the custodians of FIRS records, such as the Coordinating Directors, Directors and Tax Controllers as do other House Committees like the Committee on Finance, to enhance its investigation at any time.”
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts had written a letter of invitation dated 27th May 2021 to the Executive Chairman of the FIRS to appear at its public hearing slated for 9 June 2021 on alleged revenue leakages involving the three foreign firms. However, the FIRS Executive Chairman could not honour the Committee’s summons on that date due to other pressing engagements which included Board meetings.
Appearing in person on the rescheduled date, Nami noted with satisfaction the cordial relationship between the FIRS and the legislators since he assumed office in December 2019.
He seized the opportunity to reiterate that “the mandate of the FIRS is to assess, collect and account for tax revenue.” This mandate, he stressed, “is clear and unambiguous.”
On the activities of fraudsters who specialise in producing and selling fake TCCs to tax evaders, Nami said: “The FIRS has now gone ahead of them as it has launched an online portal through which Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), body corporate and individuals could confirm the genuineness of TCCs issued to them.
“The moment anyone presents a TCC to transact any business with you, we want you to visit www.tcc.firs.gov.ng. The moment you put the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) of the company, its RC number, and the name of the company in the portal, the actual Tax Clearance Certificate of the company, if it has any, will come up. If the TCC presented to you is fake, you will know. When you come across such cases, you should immediately inform us so that we prosecute such people. The only way we can collaborate as government agencies is to share information”.