Comptroller-General of Customs, Inde Dikko Abdullahi
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), in collaboration with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), have enjoined importers and their agents doing business at the seaports, airports and land borders to obtain a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to ease their transactions.
Both organisations jointly stated this at a stakeholders meeting organised by them in Lagos.
Speaking at the meeting, which took place in Apapa, FIRS Director and Regional Coordinator, Lagos Mainland (West Region), Mr. Femi Faniyi, said the new policy would be the only approved means of doing business in the country. He added that it would also allow for better and faster processing of NCS operations.
Explaining the TIN initiative, Faniyi said it was a 14-digit sequential number electronically-assigned to all corporate and individual taxpayers as part of the tax registration process for the purpose of identifying a taxpayer, especially one directly involved in facilitating trade at the nation's international entry points.
“This is a new way of doing business at the port with include airport, seaports and land borders. Importers have a way of doing business before now but we are introducing a new way and that new way is simplified. It is the introduction of what we called Tax Payers Identification Number,” he said.
Also speaking, representative of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdulahi, Assistant Comptroller Dera Nnadi stated that the importance of the TIN cannot be over-emphasised. He noted that the policy would be of benefit to all stakeholders when it fully takes effect.
According to the Customs Chief, the new policy would make business transactions at the ports seamless. He noted that with the TIN initiative, accessing importers data would be made easier by NCS, even as he pointed out that consignments can thus be cleared at the ports within six hours.
“We felt that if FIRS and Customs collaborate and you register with FIRS and get your TIN number, when you get to customs, it makes your identification easier. This is because we believe that all information you give to FIRS to obtain the TIN number will be relevant and can be access by Customs. For now the benefit is that it will cut short the time of clearing consignments at the ports to at least six hours,” he said.
The NCS and the FIRS had last year launched the TIN scheme, aimed at identifying importers in paying value added tax (VAT) on goods. The new policy is to replace the Automated System of Customs Data (ASYCUDA) number that was hitherto used to identify importers.
Meanwhile, National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, has appealed to the Federal Government to harmonise the various classifications of tax payments in Nigeria into a one-stop-shop structure.
At a stakeholders' meeting on TIN, Shittu complained that the system of tax payments in Nigeria was disorderly, noting that a one-stop-shop platform would ensure tax payment compliance by individuals and corporate bodies in Nigeria.
“The tax system in Nigeria is disjointed. We have federal tax, state tax, local government and several other taxes. Is there no way government can harmonise all these taxes and have a one stop shop? One-stop-shop, in a sense, that whatever is liable to a person as tax can be paid once. Government and FIRS should come to our aid in this direction,” Shittu said.
Citing an example of how discrepancies in Nigeria’s tax payment system affects licensed customs agents, he lamented that Customs brokers get caught in the middle of their importers, the revenue service and Customs in the act of reconciling taxes on an import’s freight charges and Customs duties.
“I want FIRS to note this example. An importer at Onitsha with a consignment whose duty, terminal charges and other charges is about N20 million. The importer gives to a Customs agent to make the payments and deliver his cargo.
“In that respect, the professional charge for that agent may not be more than N100,000 which means that the N19,900,000 are money receipt-able for Customs duties, VAT and so on. Now FIRS visits the agent’s office and asks him to bring out all documents and his cheque book.
“FIRS officials going through the agent’s cheque book and seeing the N2,000,000 figure tells the agent that he will be taxed based on the N2,000,000 because it passed through his bank account. Is this right? Does this mean that agents should refuse collecting money to make payments from their importers and let them make the payments by themselves?
“But the thing is that Customs prefer agents to do the payments! This is because we have seen importers whose office address is at the cemetery or the lagoon! That is why Customs prefer to deal with the person it gave its licence. I want FIRS to put that into consideration,” Shittu stated.
To ensure the success of TIN, he called on FIRS to form a strong partnership with ANLCA to ensure that importers get their tax payers identification numbers for a smooth and quick cargo clearance process.