The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, has restated the agency’s commitment to eliminating multiple taxation in the country.
Fowler said this at a tax breakfast seminar with the theme: “Tax Controversy and Dispute Resolution,’ organized by KPMG Nigeria in Lagos, recently.
According to him, one thing the FIRS did when it initiated the ongoing tax reform was to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the State Internal Revenue Agencies to streamline tax payments. He explained: “We see things changing this year and I hope that the corporate body would take advantage of this opportunity.
“This simply says that if you have businesses operating in more than one state, instead of having five State Internal Revenue Services and FIRS coming to check your books, you can do it at one stop. “You inform the committee, they look at your books and each state would get what is due them and of course the FIRS. He listed some of the issues that cause dispute in terms of tax payment to include income tax, Value Added Tax holding tax in the country.
According to him, defaulting in tax payment is one of the reasons for controversies and dispute. He said the decision by the agency to place a lien on defaulting taxpayers with bank accounts with turnover of N100 million and above annually, for over three years was in order. “I don’t really think there should be much concern when you are talking about disputes in this respect. That is because 99 per cent of all these accounts do not even have a tax identity. Without a tax ID at the FIRS level, you can’t make tax payments. “These businesses had collected VAT, they had deducted withholding tax and didn’t file any returns nor did they make any tax payment. So, when we are talking about a dispute here, I think it is an open and closed case,” he added.
Continuing, Fowler said: “Some of the reasons for these controversies basically might be wrong computation of taxes, misinterpretation of some section of tax laws and audits and the issue of double taxation. “On the issue of double taxation, politically, the states believe that they have the right to impose sales tax, whereas some people feel VAT should be a federal tax, which the states do share from that revenue. And i think that was the only area in Nigeria where we had an issue of double taxation.” Fowler further noted that one of the reasons for low tax collections, not just in Nigeria, but the entire Africa, was the over-reliance on income from natural resources over the years. “If you look at Nigeria as a country, nobody has been sent to jail for criminal charges when it comes to taxation, because when you file the return which is four times it becomes a criminal case at the same time at the state level the same applies.