By Samuel Ibiyemi
President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated ministries, departments, agencies and business enterprises to grant access to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to their systems for the purposes of tax collection nationwide. Buhari’s directive to MDAs and business enterprises is expected to boost the performance of FIRS which collected N4.952 trillion in total tax revenue in the year 2020 as a landmark achievement representing 98 per cent target of the N5.076 trillion target set for the FIRS by the Federal Government.
President Buhari issued the mandate on Thursday while delivering his address as the Special Guest of Honour at the First Annual National Tax Dialogue organized by the FIRS at the old Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa Abuja. The theme of the dialogue was “Taxation in a post-Covid Economy.”
The President also mandated the FIRS to “speedily put all measures in place to fully implement programmes to stamp out Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in all of its ramifications and generally automate its tax processes.”
In addition, President Buhari urged the FIRS to fast-track its digitalization of the tax collection process.
The President said, “I have directed all government agencies and business enterprises to grant FIRS access to their systems for seamless connection. We all are now living in a fast digitalising world. As such, business transactions are continually being migrated from ‘brick and mortar’ locations to digital places or spaces. It is therefore incumbent upon tax authorities to adopt digital means to efficiently track taxable transactions for the purpose of collecting taxes. In order to provide the necessary legislative framework for the adoption of technology in tax administration, we also made necessary amendments to the FIRS Establishment Act in the Finance Act 2020.”
Also, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who delivered the keynote address at the Tax Dialogue, gave assurances that the AfDB would support the FIRS to modernise the tax collection processes in Nigeria through capacity building.
In her opening remarks at the Dialogue, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamusuna Ahmed, highlighted some provisions of the Finance Act 2020, stating that a number of these provisions were enshrined in the Act in order to help businesses, especially SMEs, recover from the adverse effects of COVID-19.
She said tax compliance was key to national prosperity, stressing that government was determined to minimise the incidence of tax dodging through suck leakages as cross-border transactions through maximum use of technology.
The Finance Minister urged the audience to generously contribute their ideas during the dialogue in order to improve the nation’s tax system.
In his Welcome Address at the event, Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, underscored the importance of the dialogue, saying, “The universal collapse of traditional government revenue sources and the consequential resort to tax is a testimony. The well-known arms race among nations is gradually giving way to ‘tax-race.’ The international struggle for and against digital services tax is just the beginning of the tax race. It is a race for all nations – developed or developing. And for Nigeria, it is ‘a must-win’ race.”
Mr. Nami stressed that the FIRS would match on to digitalise the tax process fully and canvassed the cooperation of the three tiers of government, the citizens and corporate organisations in the country for the success of the digitalization drive.
His words: “The FIRS started the journey to automation several years ago when it launched ‘Project Fact.’ Several other initiatives were launched to further take advantage of evolving technology in taxpayer registration, online payment platforms, remote filing of returns, etc. However, there was very limited success with the various initiatives due to inadequate statutory framework.
“A quantum leap was achieved with the 2020 Finance Act which copiously provided legal grounds for deployment of technology in tax administration. The Service is grateful to the President, the leadership of the National Assembly, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and all other stakeholders that worked together to enact the necessary laws.
“The Service is taking advantage of the new law to embark on studies (with the assistance of friendly tax authorities and international tax organisations) with a view to developing a robust digitalisation roadmap. The roadmap will enable the Service to digitalise its whole operations (end-to-end) in a systematic, coherent and efficient manner.
“There is so much to look forward to in the coming years. The FIRS is starting this decade with the resolve to leapfrog tax administration into the digital age. Ladies and gentlemen, we are banking on your continued support as we embark on this onerous journey.”