The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Civil Society Organisations have called for deliberate measures to curb revenue leakages in order to boost tax generation in the country.
The call was made at a National Tax Conference organised by International and National Civil society organisations known as Tax Justice and Governance Platform in Abuja.
The theme of the conference is “Tax Expenditure and the Implication for National Development”.
Mr John Ikata, Head Tax Expenditure, FIRS, advised the public to be more responsive to taxation adding that tax all over the world drives the nation.
Ikata said that without taxation, the nation would not be able to have the revenue necessary for infrastructural development and provision of social amenities.
He appealed to citizens not to be averse to tax, but should be responsive to tax.
“The workshop is in a positive light, the general concept of this is to assume that the government is losing revenue through tax incentives and trying to look at how those revenues can be gotten back and the losses reduced .
“These losses are in the form of tax incentives and from this conference it is assumed that if some incentives are stopped the government can earn more revenue.
“Although from the tax man point of view, we may have slightly different opinions on that because the government is giving incentives for special reasons.
“When you do some impact analysis of those incentives viz a viz what is being seen as loss, you will see that there might be a marginal developmental curve in the impact in the society,’’ he said.
Chinedu Bassey, National Coordinator, at the Secretariat of the Tax Justice and Governance Platform, said tax expenditure issues were important to national growth.
“However, the government is giving away resources it should have used to provide services especially in the socio economic sector, education, health and infrastructure for the ordinary citizens.
“These incentives are given to multinational companies; we have been on this for a long while but considering the economic situation of the country right now, we need all the resources to provide these services for the people.
“We need to amplify our voices on this to reiterate the importance of why the government should still have a rethink on this concept and how they are managing it to provide the needed development for the people,’’ he said.
Mr Celestine Odo, Programme Manager, Governance, Actionaid, said although Nigeria has a lot of challenges with her tax system, adding, ”that does not foreclose the improvements made so far.”
Odo said the major challenge was building a national dependable database of taxpayers in Nigeria from the state to the national level so as to know the number of people paying and what they are paying.
He said: “So, if we should have that, it will go a long way in boosting the revenue but this also means bringing in the high net worth individuals ,those that are supposed to be paying tax, companies and all that and getting them into the tax base.
“At the same time get those within the informal sector, a lot of big players out there and get them into the tax base this is very important.
“Nigerians are complaining, companies are complaining that they are already their own government providing all the facilities for themselves and at the same time paying tax.
“So, in terms of resource allocation, government should really factor in infrastructure development at different levels and also looking at the social intervention.’’
Odo said there was need to re-evaluate the pattern of allocation, adding that it was not about generating tax but the utilisation, expenditure and what the productive effect within the economy.
He said there was a need to automate the tax system using ICT to post revenue thereby closing up leakages.
Mr Henry Ushie, Project Coordinator, Fiscal Accountability for Inequality Reduction, Oxfam, said Nigeria’s tax system has been bedeviled with so many problems.
He said: “They include multiple taxation, to illicit financial flows, to multiplicity of taxes particularly within the informal sector.
“So, this discussion today has actually spotlighted the aspect in terms of how the government lost revenue through illicit avenues and all of that.”
Ushie said that was why sectors such as education, health and agriculture still have very paltry percentages allocated to them.
He said, ”this therefore, boiled down to how the government could be more deliberate in generating revenue and reinvesting the revenues in such a way to benefit the most vulnerable.
”That would amount to robust revenue for the government and also a robust budget eventually which would in turn translate to national development.”