Governor Rotimi Amaechi
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Rivers State Council has welcomed the proposed taxes and levies harmonisation bill by the state government, stating that the bill, if sincerely and properly crafted, will provide another opportunity to create investment-friendly environment in the state.
Rivers State Chairman of TUC, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said the bill would minimise the current confusion regarding which tier of government or which agency/department of government is the appropriate authority for the collection of taxes and levies in the state, noting that this had many times led to double or multiple payment by the residents and business community.
Onuegbu, however, said workers would support the bill for the harmonisation of taxes to the extent that it would not be used as a ploy to introduce any new form of levies in the state.
He said the union’s position was informed by the provisions of section 1 (2) of the bill, which states that “the Commissioner in Charge of Finance shall from time to time modify the first and second schedules to this law by adding, deleting or altering the schedules in order to bring them in conformity with the provisions of any law providing for the payment of taxes or levies in the State”.
These provisions, he said, are very wide powers which should not be vested on a single officer. He added that the provision also suggest that government may be planning to introduce new forms of taxes and levies in the state.
“Our position is further informed by the surreptitious manner in which the Federal Government rather than increase the tax reliefs due to Nigerian workers deceitfully increased the burden of the workers through the new Personal Income Tax Amendment (PITAM) Act 2011. This is the reason why many workers have noticed a sharp increase in their tax liability, a huge reduction in their take home pay and the mesmerisation of the salary increases via salary relativity and minimum wage.
“The PITAM was basically used to increase the internally generated revenue due to the various state governments and this made a fool of the minimum wage struggle by the Nigerian workers. It should therefore be obvious by now that Nigerian workers and the unions that represent them will not support any increase in taxes and levies and hence the need to clarify that fact.
“Moreover, the Nigerian workers are yet to derive reasonable value for the enormous taxes and levies currently being deducted from their salaries. It is therefore no longer acceptable to assume that the priority of government at all levels is only to legislate and enforce taxes and levies on the citizenry without any legislative and enforced guarantees for tax dividends and benefits,” he said.
Speaking further, Onuegbu maintained that the bill, which seeks to harmonise the taxes and levies collectable by the various tiers of government and agencies /departments of governments in the state, must not be used to circumvent the taxes and levies Act T2, LFN, 2004.
He therefore charged the State House of Assembly to carefully cross check and ensure that there is no aspect of the bill that conflict with the provisions of taxes and levies Act T2, LFN, 2004 and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 .
This, he stated, was because the State House of Assembly, being a state legislature, lacks the power to legislate on taxes and levies outside the provisions of Part II in the schedule to the Taxes and levies Act T2, LFN, 2004.
“It is important to state that workers and entire residents are following with keen and cautious attention, with the hope that this harmonisation will provide an opportunity to re-position Rivers State as the preferred investment destination in the Niger Delta and we expect that your efforts will be applaudable. In addition, the manner of tax collection and enforcement of taxes should be similarly reviewed, especially as the Rivers State House of Assembly finalise on the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue Bill,” he added.