Governor Babatunde Fashola
By Nnamdi Duru
The Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) has appealed to residents in the state to make their grievances on all tax matters known to the agency and be rest assured that their complaints would be resolved amicably to their satisfaction.
The service made this appeal just as the State Government made its intentions to bring more taxable adults in state into the tax net known.
The Executive Chairman of the service, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, made the call while addressing participants at the 6th Lagos State Taxation Stakeholders’ conference in Ikeja last week.
“Before the Governor comes, I want to encourage Lagosians here to tell us what they feel about what we are doing. Tell us about our services to you, the positives and the negatives, where we are doing well and where we have not done well so that we will know how to serve you better,” he pleaded.
Fowler noted that taxation in the state is looking upward as tax rates were going down in the state, adding that experience has shown that the stick approach works more than the carrot approach in the country, particularly on tax matters.
He threatened that the state government would prosecute already identified tax evaders while trying to identify more tax offenders.
“Few people cannot be paying, while millions of others would be enjoying it at no cost to them. The state will extract the taxes by all legal means, through prosecutions,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government said it has perfected plans to bring in more taxable adults into the tax net, using all legal means to ensure compliance.
The State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who conveyed the position of the government to stakeholders at the meeting, said government would use persuasion to get Lagosians to pay their taxes voluntarily but where that fails, it will enforce its taxation rights legally.
He noted that there will be no meaningful development without sharing responsibility among government and the governed.
He said that the state government has not made any tax law since inception of his administration, adding that state financial commitments has increased over the years and as such there is need for every taxable adult in the state to pay their taxes.
“We did not promulgate any tax law. It has always been there. What we are doing is to enforce it. There are over eight million taxable adults in the state and only three million are now captured in our tax system. With 3 per cent population growth rate, development in the state would not be sustainable, if only three million people continue to pay taxes for over 17 million residents.
“About 70 per cent of the state’s revenues are generated through taxation. That is why we have been urging people to pay their taxes to sustain the ongoing developments in the state. But time has come for us to be more serious about it.
“From 1999 to 2013, our budget has risen from N14 billion to N499 billion. Likewise, we have been reducing the state’s budget deficit from N79 billion in 2011, N66 billion in 2012 to N42 billion in 2013. Budget performance also has always been above 70 per cent,” Fashola disclosed.
The governor also appealed to Lagosians to reject and report illegal taxes bring imposed by various agencies at the Local Government level.