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Tax War: ICAN, CITN Claim Victory from Court Ruling

05 Mar 2013

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President of CITN, Mr. Sunday Jegede

Nnamdi Duru

Even with the recent ruling by the Appeal Court sitting in Lagos, the last has not been heard on the raging taxation practice jurisdictional dispute between the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

Both parties have been celebrating the ruling of recent, claiming the same ruling was in their favour and as such, they are laying respective claims to be the umbrella organisation regulating taxation practice in the country.

While the former claims the pronouncement by the learned jury has reaffirmed that it is the only professional body empowered by government to regulator taxation practice in the country, the latter insists that the jury did not restrain its members from practicing taxation.
CITN opposed ICAN’s continued regulation of taxation practice in 2004 and approached the Lagos High Court the following year to make a declaration that it is only CITN that can regulate taxation profession in the country by virtue of its enabling Act.

In 2007, Justice Lateefat Okunnu ruled that taxation is recognised as a legal profession separate from accounting and as such the power to regulate taxation practice and profession is vested in only CITN and not jointly with ICAN.

She also ruled that it is illegal for any member of ICAN who is not also a member of CITN to practice taxation in return for a fee in the country.
The above decision did not go down well with the leadership of ICAN, which appealed the decision of the court, giving rise to the latest ruling in CITN’s favour by the Appeal Court in Lagos recently.

Speaking on the ruling, the President of CITN, Mr. Sunday Jegede, said: “We are happy with the outcome of the appeal as the Court of Appeal has restated that taxation is a separate and distinct profession from accountancy in Nigeria.”

The court, he said, reaffirmed that “CITN is the only professional body vested with the powers to regulate and control taxation in all its ramifications to the exclusion of ICAN and any other professional body in Nigeria and only members of CITN can present themselves as tax practitioners and administrators.”
Also claiming victory from the ruling, the President of ICAN, Mr. Doyin Owolabi, who claimed to be setting the records straight, said: “The court’s judgment did not restrain ICAN members who are not CITN members from practising taxation in Nigeria.”

This, according to him, is the kernel of the controversy between the two bodies, adding that the court did not grant the third and fifth reliefs sought by CITN to the extent that only its members can practice taxation for a fee in the country.

Owolabi pointed out that the court declined to make “a declaration that it is illegal for any member of the defendant (ICAN) who is not a member of CITN to practice or hold himself out to practice as a tax administrator or practitioner for or in expectation of reward in Nigeria.”
Also the court, according to him, refused to issue “an order restraining members of ICAN who are not members of CITN from practicing, representing or holding themselves out as tax administrators or practitioners in violation of the CITN Act, 2004.”

The ICAN president observed that the other three reliefs granted by the lower court were not in dispute including that taxation is legally recognised in Nigeria as a profession separate and distinct from the accountancy profession.

Also not disputed is the fact that CITN is vested with power to regulate and control the practice of taxation in all its ramifications to the exclusion of ICAN or any other professional body or institution in Nigeria and that it is unlawful for ICAN to forestall or impede CITN’s efforts to regulate tax practice, he stressed.

He noted that Okunnu had in 2007, granted the three reliefs among others, adding that the recent pronouncement by the Court of Appeal has resolved all the issues.
Meanwhile, CITN has said that going forward, chartered accountants would not be admitted into its membership automatically, saying the privilege which qualified accountants used to enjoy before is now a thing of the past.

It added that chartered accountants, who want to practice taxation in addition to accounting and auditing, would only be exempted from writing some subjects in the CITN’s qualifying examinations.

Jegede, who made the position of the institute known, offered an olive branch to ICAN.
“We are happy with the outcome of the appeal. However, CITN is willing and ready for peaceful settlement of this matter. We have said so from the word go. CITN is not fighting ICAN; it is ICAN that is fighting CITN. I am calling on the leadership of ICAN to please respect the judgment and respect the sanctity of the law,” he said.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Tax War, ICAN, CITN, COURT RULING

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