Tunde Fowler
Tunde Fowler

Precisely last week, executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, Babatunde Fowler announced that the agency realized N27,086 billion from the waiver of tax penalty and interest program. The tax amnesty initiative was introduced last year by Mr. Fowler. The scheme under the ‘waiver of tax penalty and interest program’ was to enable tax defaulters pay their tax liabilities from 2013-2015. Apart from the huge success in monetary gains, the scheme also increased taxpayers nationwide. In engaging taxpayers, FIRS opened a 45-day window beginning from October 5 to November 24 last year, for debtors to pay a minimum of 25 percent of the real amount owed and spread the balance through installments. Going forward, penalties, interests’ rates were also waived in magnanimity in order to encourage defaulters, regularize their relationships with the agency and draw them closer.
Today the service can boast of the success in so far no less than N27.086 billion has been realized from the scheme in addition to increasing the tax net by additional 2,735 tax payers, according to the Chairman of FIRS, who also revealed that more revenue is expected from the installment payments of the principal. With the additional new tax payers which were never captured before by past governments, more revenue is due to government. Under the scheme, the aggregate tax revenue collection for 2016 amounted to N3.307trillion, translating to 79 percent of government target of N4.200 trillion for the same period. In the nationwide tax registration drive, an additional 814,000 corporate taxpayers were brought into the tax stream, exceeding the 500,000 target of previously unregistered tax payers in the country. In truth these are feats never achieved before until the regime of Mr. Fowler, given the penchant by taxable Nigerians and business entities to evade tax. We salute and acknowledge this accomplishment.
It is worthy of note because of the uncommon ingenuity which the service adopted, which is a more liberal, responsible and not coercive approach. In fact to bring difficult and ever evasive taxpayers back into the tax net and mainstream and making them to discharge their civic obligation once again is not an easy task, principally in these harsh economic times. Again we give kudos to the FIRS arrow head and his team for this rare rationale.
Yet it is true that Nigerians detest tax payment even when they have the means and the wherewithal, in this instance the FIRS needs to sustain and improve the tempo by continuing with this civil method.
The technique is working and will continue to work. FIRS must continue to enlighten and engage taxable adults and entities like civil and public servants who pay tax by way of deductions from source in a robust way, notwithstanding others like those in the private sector: manufacturing and most service companies who are eligible but default or do not pay regularly. As a reminder Tax is a civic duty and responsibility worldwide. Every eligible person and taxable body must pay. As a catalyst for development, it is a serious economic matter and a criminal offence too where defaulters can go to prison if they decline to pay. So performing the social duty of paying tax, which enables government meet its statutory responsibilities to its people, is therefore a must because of its importance as a means for growth and progress.
We again commend Mr. Fowler for the resourcefulness and approach. In carrying out the assignment, they were civil and responsible and not combative. According to reports, the agency engaged tax payers with civility and good manners hence the public cooperated with them to achieve the feat. This is not the same thing in our view with most government agencies, like the FRSC, the Customs and some others each time they have had to engage the public to introduce new government policies or programs. Regrettably the agencies have adopted brute or force, which means no good. Again moving onward, we ask them to copy the FIRS, adopt their model on how to engage Nigerians in a more civilized and courteous manners in order to achieve success. Certainty this is the better way to go in attracting impoverished Nigerians to part withscarce resources in an unfriendly economy such as ours. FRSC, Customs, others must change tactics in this auspicious change era and emulate Fowler.

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