Oxfam in Nigeria has proclaimed on the federal government to fast-track energy on the acclaimed new National Tax Policy in order to stop corporate crimes.
Oxfam Country Director, Constant Tchona, obtained the appeal in Abuja at the public presenting of the ‘Fair Tax Index release and the Pledge to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII)’ statement, with the theme ‘West Africa Inequality Crisis: The Fight Against Inequality through Progressive Taxation’ in Abuja.
He announced Oxfam had developed policy recommendations and strategies, saying it would be used to advocate for a fairer tax system that helps to redistribute prosperity from the richest in the society to the very poorest.
Tchona, explained that a 2015 Oxfam’s report highlighted the inefficiency of Nigeria’s tax incentives where it submitted that the country loses N580 billion annually through tax incentives to multinational corporations.
To put this in perspective, he noted that the health budget was only one-third of this amount in 2015.
The country director added that Nigeria needs to rework its strategies and sets its economic priorities right by investing in agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure rather than waste its hard-earned resources on unproductive and redundant tax incentives.
Tchona explained further that the official Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) numbers suggest that the entire tax system was fraught with crippling challenges of weak enforcement, corruption and outright evasion.
According to him, “The records show that about 30 per cent of companies in Nigeria are involved in tax evasion and also 25 per cent of registered companies in the country are not paying tax.
“Taxpayers often opt to negotiate with corruption tax administration staff in return for gratifications and reduced sums to the coffers of the government.”
Tchona said the fiscal incentives granted with the hope of stimulating investments into the country’s economy were eroded with poor governance and lack of transparency, especially when the central bank had confirmed that there was no cost-benefit analysis to justify the exemptions and when there were no check-in discretionary powers residing with the Executive in granting exemptions.
He stressed that the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) was designed to increase tax revenue by encouraging voluntary disclosure of any previously undisclosed income liable for tax and to bring as many people as possible into the tax net. This, he said resulted in $5 million extra revenue which was about N1.8 billion, but this was only 10 per cent of the expected amount.
Tchona, however, called on the federal government to opt for aggressive taxation of the informal sector in order to meet the revenue target.
“There is a need for the Nigerian government to fast-forward action on the New National Tax Policy approved and clamp down on corporate crimes.
“New legislation and rules to cope with current realities should be enacted along with the introduction of cutting edge technology.
“The National Assembly should enact a law to punish enablers of tax evasion such as lawyers, accountants and bankers and should be made to face fines of up to 100 per cent of the tax evaded
“The National Assembly should enact a law that will criminalise totally the actions of middlemen- banks, auditors and lawyers that facilitate illicit financial flows. When such professionals act contrary to existing regulations, they should be held accountable in Nigeria.
“This can be enforced through strengthened professional association bodies.”
While presenting his paper on, ‘Understanding the Impact of Inequality in Nigeria and Policy Recommendations,’ the Country Director of Plan International Nigeria, Dr Husseini Abdul, said tax was not only about income for the government but one of the best way to tackle inequality
According to him, “We can’t have a conversation about the development of this country without talking about inequality. The trajectory of development is a problem and economic policies are needed to deal with them.”