I am pleased to be in the midst of the gentlemen of the fourth estate of the realm, this morning. It feels like being in the midst of the most powerful men and women in the country. Journalists seek the truth; they hold leaders accountable and together with scholar-activists and change agents, they point the course which societies could chart.
Journalism in Nigeria has a very rich past. Its variant role in Nigeria’s anti-colonial struggle, sacrifice against military rule is a global knowledge. In the last two and half decades, journalists exposed the Koko Nuclear Toxic wastes, which compelled Italy to evacuate her cargoes of death from Nigeria and the exposure of the dehumanising work conditions in a Chinese factory in Lagos
The media has been one of the major stakeholders and partners of the FIRS. The media has demonstrated understanding in reporting FIRS’ progress and tax issues in general. You have also been understanding. For this, the FIRS is grateful. The media: (print, TV, radio and online), has played pivotal roles in taxpayer education and enlightenment, law amendment and enforcement.
We have had opportunities to interact and share ideas on how to move our country forward. This is another session. It is designed to enable us share deeper thoughts on taxation in Nigeria and how to communicate taxation for effective results. By the end of this programme, participants/FIRS would have been able to do the following:
- increase participants’ understanding of the journalist and the press;
- increase your understanding of taxation and FIRS;
- increase participant’s skills to educate the nation and improve tax collection;
- Chart a path for increased mutually beneficial relations between FIRS and the media and ultimately increase communication of taxation in Nigeria.
We are going to be talking about a range of topics: What is taxation? What are the tax types? What are the basic principles of taxation, policies, and FIRS reforms? Issues in tax reporting and FIRS online payment platforms and solutions.
Like you know, the FIRS is established by Act of the National Assembly, No: 13 of 2007, with the mandate to assess, collect and account for taxes accruable to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. FIRS is founded on the vision: “To deliver quality services to taxpayers in partnership with other stakeholders and make taxation the pivot of national development” and the mission: “To operate a transparent and efficient tax system that optimizes tax revenue collection and voluntary tax compliance”
Towards the realisation of this mandate, the FIRS is guided by its Core Values: Professionalism, Integrity, Efficiency and Ownership and collective responsibility. Towards attaining the mandate to generate revenues for sustainable development, we are doing the following:
- Waiver of Interest and Penalty: as part of the efforts of the Service to promote voluntary compliance and shield taxpayers from the burden of carrying forward tax liabilities that rose from penalty and interest. FIRS successfully implemented a waiver of interest and penalty for three years (2013 to 2015). The Service, by this entirely new idea has so far realized N27 billion.
- Expanding the Tax Net: A massive nationwide registration exercise of new taxpayers is ongoing. The result is the registration of 814, 000 additional taxpayers by December 2016 by FIRS and 3.4 million taxpayers by State Internal Revenue Services (SIRSs). By Decemeber last year, Nigeria has a National Tax Roll of 14 million.
- Ease of Tax Payment: Considering convenience, proximity and ease of tax payment, the asked taxpayers to file their tax returns at the FIRS offices nearest to them. This novel idea has increased compliance as it eased the burden of taxpayers who have had to travel from far places to pay their taxes.
- Improved collaboration with the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to ensure that MDAs remit taxes such as Withholding Tax (WHT) Value Added Tax (VAT) promptly through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS). GIFMIS is an IT based system for budget management and accounting used to improve Public Expenditure Management processes, enhance greater accountability and transparency across Ministries and Agencies
- Collaboration with the Joint Tax Board and State of Internal Revenue Services on several fronts such as Taxpayer Enlightenment, Tax Enforcement and registration of new taxpayers.
- Tax Education, Enlightenment and Media Campaigns: to engage and sensitise taxpayers, the FIRS established the Federal Enlightenment and Engagement Tax Teams (FEETT) to engage and enlighten taxpayers nationwide.
- Inter-agency Collaboration: The collaborative handshake with other government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Road Safety Commission, (FRSC), the Immigration Service and the Corporate Affairs Commission is being strengthened.
- ICT Infrastructure: The deployment of technology, expansion and deepening of ongoing ICT initiatives became a marked feature of our bid to shore up non-oil revenue.
- ITAS and Online Mechanisms: The Service deployed the Integrated Tax Administration System, (ITAS), in key tax offices in 2016. ITAS will be rolled out nationwide in 2017. ITAS is targeted at automatingall core tax administration processes (registration, filing, audit, payments etc) and the provision of multiple tax payment channels such as Pay Direct, e-tax pay and Remitta. Savvy taxpayers have started e-filing.
- Integrated Stamp Duties Services: For ease of tax payment, the Service introduced an Integrated Stamp Duty Services (ISDS) portal. The ISDS is a purpose-built Stamp Duty portal that facilitates the online assessment and payment of Stamp Duties by Nigerian taxpayers
- A Stamp Duties Co-ordination was created as part of the standard FIRS structure, while Commissioners of Stamp Duties were appointed
- Collection of N3.303 trillion in 2016 despite a Challenged Economy: A N3.303 trillion collection in a challenged economy–in a year when oil prices dropped less than $50 dollars a barrel for over nine months and when the value of stocks on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) slid and purchasing power was slim. The average oil price was about $100 dollars per barrel between 2012 and 2015.
The Service is convinced that with progressive application of technology, persuasion and enforcement on recalcitrant taxpayers, and partnership with key stakeholders like the press, we will collect enough revenue for the nation in 2017.
Fowler, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, delivered the lecture at the opening of a five-day journalism training on taxation