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FG sending conflicting signals on tax as agencies evade in states

Whereas the federal government has stepped up campaigns for Nigerians to pay taxes as and when due, there seems to be no corresponding compliance in paying taxes by several agencies of the federal government.

Only recently, the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun set up what she called Community Tax Liaison Officers (CTLOs) to recruit 7,500 graduates as tax advocates

CTLOs will be trained to drive tax education and seamless compliance amongst Nigerians, the Federal Government has concluded new plans to recruit 7,500 graduates as Community Tax Liaison Officers (CTLO) to raise tax awareness among citizens. Details of the recruitment sighted by Business Hilights showed that graduates of accounting, economics, mathematics and other relevant courses would be given priority under the programme.

For a start government plans to pay the recruits N30, 000 monthly as the stand to receive performance-based incentives measured by the number of people they enrolled during the two year period.

This was made public jointly by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. BabaTunde Fowler, at a joint press briefing in Abuja last week.

According to the Minister, the recruits would be expected to go to schools, churches, mosques, markets and other social places to educate people on the tax system and let them know their obligations.

The target of the apex government in driving the new campaign is to shore up the number of tax payers by 35 per cent, which means from the current 14 million to about 17 million in two years.

Adeosun also called on young Nigerian graduates interested in a career in tax administration to apply as the government planned to sponsor the recruits to become tax professionals.

She said “This exercise is extremely important for the fiscal sustainability of states because as you know, most of the revenue for states apart from FAAC is supposed to come from tax.

“So if we improved the number of tax payers, we will be improving the fiscal health of our state governments as well as the Federal Government.

“It’s an important initiative for the nation as we undertake reforms to reduce our over dependence on oil.

Continuing, the Minister added that “We have to make sure that everyone who is economically active pays tax, no matter how little, they have to contribute to the pool”.

Just as the minister is working towards enforcing Nigerians to pay their taxes as and when due, news from Bayelsa State has shown that several federal agencies do not pay their taxes due to states which is contrary to the gospel of the minister.

Only on Friday last week, the Bayelsa Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), sealed off the Bayelsa office of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), over alleged non-remittance of N336million Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax liability.

NDDC is a federal government agency in charge of developing oil communities.

The BIR enforcement team served a court order on the staff before they ordered them to leave their offices.

Director of Compliance at BIR, Mr. Robert Lokoson, who led the enforcement team, said the state government took the steps following fruitless efforts made to recover the outstanding tax deducted from workers’ salaries since 2014.

Lokoson said the operation was part of renewed efforts to boost the internally generated revenue of the state.

“This operation is part of efforts to recover tax revenue owed to the government by Niger Delta Development Commission and pursuant to Section 104 of Personal Income Tax Law, 2011.

“The debt has been owed since 2014 and we have written series of letters to them to pay, but no response from them.

“Four weeks back, we came and persuaded the management of NDDC to pay, but when it became obvious they were not ready to pay, we had to approach the courts to get the orders to seal their office.

“So, we have to take this last resort of getting court orders, after we had exhausted other options ’’ the director said.

He said at the expiration of 14 days, if the tax liability was not settled, the revenue board will be compelled to liquidate assets of NDDC to recover the tax debt.

Another angle of tax evasion by the federal agency came to the fore when staff of the NDDC who were forced out of their offices, wondered why the commission could not remit the taxes deducted from their salary.