Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Tunde Fowler has disclosed that in 2015, South Africa collected $57bn in Tax revenue against Nigeria that made $27 billion despite the nation’s oil wealth, population of over 140 million people and about 60 million taxable citizens. He spoke in Accra, Ghana at the Annual Tax Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Ghana, CITG during the weekend.
According to him, “Even in Nigeria, Oil, Gas and Mining sector (6.48) is not the biggest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product of $422.59 billion dollars. The sector, he noted, takes the third place after Trade (19.15) and Agriculture (19.0).”
Fowler, who delivered the lead paper at the Conference: “Strategies For Revenue Mobilisation, in Contemporary Times: Challenges in Tax Legislation” said his success in establishing a connect between tax contribution of as little as N5000 and the life of a child who may die from malaria, touched the hearts of some taxpayers in Lagos who turned a new leaf and became compliant taxpayers.
He also noted that it was curious that no member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with all their wealth-is in the league of developed countries. Today, he noted, Venezuellans queue for food. “It can be argued that the extent to which an economics able to grow sustainably and develops depends to a large extent on its ability to generate tax revenue to finance its expenditure and the efficiency if its tax system.
Fowler, who stated that governments fund budget either by levying taxes or borrowing, noted that whatever taxmen do must still be within the ambit of the law. He observed that though it is tasking, it is still possible to collect taxes with existing laws. He, however, still reckoned that obsolete laws and challenging law amendment processes were some of the challenges to tax legislation in Africa.
He said the situation is not bleak as tax administrators must be innovative, purposeful, dedicated and result oriented. With their conduct, tax administrators could convince legislators and elected office holders of the direction that tax legislation should go.
Once this is clear and lawmakers and power holders are convinced that tax administrators are pushing for those changes for collective good, changes in tax legislation will not be difficult to advocate.
Other routes to overcoming tax collection challenges Fowler noted include, collaboration with stakeholders, robust taxpayer education, simplifying tax laws, review of waivers and exemptions, discouragement of impunity and flouting of tax laws.
“One issue that is clear is that there can be no successful revenue mobilization without a sound tax law regime as a platform for implementing the strategy. Strategies which are implemented without a sound legal footing usually fail or do not stand the test of time”.
One of the highlights of the CITG annual conference was the conferment of an award to Fowler as an Honourary Fellow of CITG for his contributions to the tax institute.

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