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How we’ll block $10 billion tax leakages – FIRS

* Service vows to ensure elites pay more tax in 2020

Statistics from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has shown that despite Nigeria’s revenue deficit, the country is losing about $10 billion of tax collections.

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These leakages are through illegal profit shifting by multinational corporations operating in the country.

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This in turn leads to huge revenue loses which would have been channeled to critical infrastructure development by the three tiers of government.

In a move to change the narrative Executive Chairman (EC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Muhammad Nami, disclosed in Abuja at the start of the Service’s 2020 Management Retreat held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, that the Service has plans in place to check tax evasion and leakages.

Quoting the African Union Illicit Financial Flow Report, Nami said: “Africa is losing $50 billion through profit shifting by Multinational Corporations and about $10 billion of this amount is from Nigeria alone.”

To block this and other identified tax avoidance schemes by individuals and corporate organizations, Nami disclosed that he has launched a comprehensive, ongoing tax collection reform process “anchored on four cardinal pillars of rebuilding FIRS’ institutional framework; robust collaboration with stakeholders; building a customer or taxpayer-centric Institution; and a making the FIRS data-centric institution.”

According to a statement made available to the Media by Director, Communications, FIRS, Abdullahi Ismaila, the FIRS Chairman, his board and team have also set a target of improving the Service’s performance over the next four years by a “minimum target of $5 million staff-to-revenue- ration and a 10% tax-to-GDP ratio.”

Showing that the FIRS is gradually weaning Nigeria off its dependence on oil revenue, Nami disclosed that non-oil taxes “accounted for 60% contribution to the total collection” of taxes in 2019.

Projecting into this year, Nami stated: “For the year 2020, we have a target of N8.5 trillion. This is broken down into oil tax of N3.7 trillion and non-oil taxes target of N4.8 trillion.”

The FIRS chief assured that the Service would play its “strategic role in the nation’s political economy, including supporting the actualization of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s commitment of moving the country up on the Ease of Doing Business Ranking and taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years and rebuilding Nigeria’s critical infrastructure.”  he said.

The FIRS boss also vowed that those who make money from the economy must pay more of taxes 

“As it stands, Nigeria is at the threshold of a new, transparent, accountable and fair tax regime in which those who make more from the system pay a more equitable share of their income as tax towards the public good, especially in lifting 100 Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years as envisioned by President Muhammadu Buhari,”

Nami added that a clear roadmap to achieving this national imperative was outlined, now that the president has signed the 2019 Finance bill into an Act of the parliament.

In a paper delivered by a tax expert, Mr. Taiwo Oyedele, titled “Strategies for implementing the New VAT Regime” allayed fears and  public apprehension that the new 7.5% VAT would impact negatively on poor Nigerians as it made clear that the well-to-do would now pay their fair share of taxes in the country unlike before.

Oyedele stated that the key to building this fair, equitable tax system in transparency, accountability, integrity, work and objectivity to build confidence in taxpayers and stakeholders in the tax sector.

The FIRS 2020 Corporate Plan was also unveiled during the retreat over the weekend was also subjected to a robust, on-the-spot debate, the statement added.

Also done was the official presentation of the new FIRS Organizational Structure as approved by the Service’s Board. 

Presenting the new organizational structure, Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, disclosed that many posts in the organogram were vacant and open to the FIRS officials. 

He charged them to distinguish themselves in the shortest possible time by meeting set collection targets in order to take up these available positions of higher responsibilities, stressing that the vacancies are strictly available on measurable merit and performance criteria only.  

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Ihesiulo Grace

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