The Nigerian government has been urged to ensure an inclusive, simplified and automated tax regime in the country.
The appeal was made on Wednesday by speakers at the 8th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series held in Lagos.
The lecture series is an annual event organized by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and this year’s edition – with the theme: Tax Education, National Development and The Seminal Role of the Media – drew participants from different sectors of the economy.
Lead speaker, the first female president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, CITN, Adebimpe Balogun, said that the problem of taxation in Nigeria is with the administration of the system. She gave an example with the difficulty to get tax refund in the cases of tax credit in the country.
In his own remarks, the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, represented by the agency’s head of Communication and SERVICOM department, Wahab Gbadamosi, said that journalists should be better informed on tax issues and should take advantage of available data in order to educate their audience.
He said the FIRS is putting everything in place to ensure people pay their taxes effectively.
Edobong Akpabio, a discussant at the lecture and Vice President of the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women, NNEW, stated that 97% of businesses in Nigeria are from Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs.
She said due to varying challenges, one of which is taxation, many SMEs in Nigeria die before their fifth birthday.
Akpabio stated further that another challenge with the payment of tax in the country was the lack of communication and proper customer service orientation exhibited by tax officials at agency outlets; adding that, “tax offices should be conducive for tax payers and free of miscreants”.
A tax Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Emuesiri Agbeyi, said Nigeria’s tax system is one of the most difficult globally. She suggested that the tax system should be made simple and easy for comprehension.
She also emphasised the need to simplify the language used in tax laws to understandable English as most of the laws were written in the sixties.
A civil society representative, Abubakar Jimoh, who is the Communication, Information and Public Officer of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, added that tax authorities need to have effective response to tax payers if they intend to get more revenue.
The Publisher of The Cable Newspaper, Simon Kolawole, stated that the country had been distracted up until now by revenue from oil. According to him, the media’s role in taxation is to educate government and the society. He added that taxation is a tool of relationship, thus it is the prosperity of businesses that can build compliance.
The Executive Director, Systemspecs owners of Remita, Deremi Atanda, said the use of technology would help reduce the cost of tax collection, but she lamented the lack of e-payment law in Nigeria, adding that a bill to that effect has been neglected for many years in the National Assembly.
While opening the event, the chair of the board of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Ropo Sekoni enjoined all participants to play their role in ensuring there is a successful tax regime in the country, saying that the media also has the duty of ensuring the discussion on tax is left on the front burner to ensure the needed effect in the society.
Motunrayo Alaka, the Centre’s coordinator, lauded all speakers and participants for being part of the vibrant conference. She expressed optimism that the discussion would continue, most especially amongst the general public who are the most hit by the challenges of taxation.