THE Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) said Nigeria’s tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, which hovered between 5 and 6 per cent for 12 years, had risen to 10.86 per cent by the end of 2021.
The new ratio was communicated to the FIRS via a letter signed by the Statistician-General of the Federation, Adeyemi Adeniran, on May 25 2023 following a review by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the FIRS, using data from 2010 to 2021.
The revision took into account revenue items hitherto not previously included in the computations, particularly relevant revenue collected by other agencies of government.
Notably, tax-to-GDP ratio is a measure of a nation’s tax revenue relative to the size of her economy as measured by its GDP.
The ratio is a useful tool for assessing the health of a country’s tax system and highlighting its tax potentials relative to the size of its economy. It is the ultimate measure of the effectiveness of a nation’s tax system compared to other countries.
In a statement announcing the new tax-to-GDP ratio, the executive chairman of FIRS, Muhammad Nami, explained that sources which previously put the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio at between 5 per cent and 6 per cent did not consider tax revenue accruing to other government agencies in their computations.
Particularly, revenues collected by agencies other than the FIRS, Customs and states’ Internal Revenue Service were excluded.
This situation was peculiar to Nigeria as most other countries operate harmonised tax system (all or most tax revenues are collected by one agency of government) with single-point tax revenue reporting. As such, all relevant tax revenues are included in the computation of the tax-to-GDP ratio.
“In order to correctly state the tax-to-GDP ratio, the FIRS initiated a review and re-computation of the ratio for 2010 to 2021. In recomputing the ratio, key indicators that were previously left out were taken into account. This resulted into a revised Tax-to-GDP ratio of 10.86% for 2021 as against 6% hitherto reported,” the statement, issued on May 31, noted.
Nami further said that Nigeria’s tax-to-GDP ratio should ordinarily be higher than 10.86 per cent but for certain economic and fiscal policy factors, including tax waivers and leakages occasioned by the country’s fragmented tax system.
“It is important to note that the tax-to-GDP ratio for Nigeria should be higher, but for the impact of tax waivers contained in our various tax laws (including exemptions to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises brought in by the Finance Act, 2019), low tax morale, leakages occasioned by the country’s fragmented tax system, and the impact of the rebasing of the GDP in 2014”, he explained.
The FIRS boss implored the government to consider reviewing its policies on tax waivers, thereby guaranteeing increased revenue to prosecute its programmes and positively move the needle of the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio.
Adeniran, in his letter to the FIRS executive chairman, described the revision as a facelift to the tax-to-GDP ratio for Nigeria in comparison with other countries.
Adeniran further noted that the NBS had “carefully and diligently reviewed the methodology used for computing the revised estimates, as well as the various items that have been included in the new computation”, and that the NBS had, as an outcome of its review and meetings with the FIRS, adopted the new tax-to-GDP computation.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.