Friday, 16 May 2014

Federal Government indicates 65% of Registered Tax Payers Failed to File Returns in Two Years...

Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
About 65 per cent of eligible tax payers have failed to file their returns to the relevant tax authorities in the past two years, according to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
The minister, who spoke at the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) stakeholders’ engagement forum in Lagos yesterday, said the failure was partly responsible for the country's low tax to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio of 12 per cent, while peers like South Africa are doing well above 20 per cent.
She also said 75 per cent of registered businesses are not captured in the tax system, while 30 per cent of those with pioneer status and enjoying tax holidays have abused the privilege.
The minister announced that Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) was now a new entrant in the tax system, having paid N200 billion as its tax obligation.
She said the stakeholders’ forum was to appeal to all eligible tax payers to come forward to pay so as to help push government's drive to diversify the economy.
Tax return is a form on which a taxpayer makes an annual statement of income and personal circumstances, used by the tax authorities to assess liability for tax. The development means that the affected registered tax payers have abdicated their obligations to government for the past two  years.
For example, in the United States, failure to file is calculated based on the time from the deadline of the due date to the date a return is filed. It usually attracts a penalty of five per cent for each month and up to 25 per cent.
The forum was organised by the FIRS to solicit cooperation and support from tax payers in order to boost non-oil revenue of government.
In his welcome address, the acting Executive Chairman, FIRS, Kabir Mashi, said the forum was held as part of the FIRS communication and enlightenment efforts.
"The forum provides a more visible and high level platform for us to exchange ideas and obtain feedback on what we are doing right," he said.
Okonjo-Iweala said one of the fallouts of the rebased GDP was that the economy was now much more diversified than it was earlier thought to be and that tax was one area that needed to be looked at seriously to enhance the ratio of non-oil contribution to government revenue.
She therefore appealed to all eligible tax payers to pay willingly, and noted that government was embarking on building cooperation, adding that if it does not work government will stop being so nice.
"Government has to step up to the plate by delivering services and must be accountable," she said.
She, however, noted that government was aware of its responsibility and that the whole issue of tax compliance was a two-way street and that there was need to build trust among the citizenry by ensuring that money collected as tax is used judiciously and in a transparent manner.
In his contribution, the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, suggested that government should reward diligent tax payers as well as name and shame tax evaders.
Other contributors said government must play its statutory role of provision of services to engender voluntary payments of taxes. Some others however queried the appointment of McKinsey as consultant to the FIRS while comparable skills are available in-country.
The minister said local tax collectors and or consultants are overbearing in terms of charges, that they almost always demand between 30 and 50 per cent of collections as against four per cent in most cases.
She said fees and charges needed to be competitive, that the choice of engaging consultants was based on cost and efficiency.
"The assistance being given by McKinsey is result based. We are not just paying out money, their fees are result based," she said, adding that they have really done well in the area of speeding up FIRS audit process.

(Source - ThisDay)

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