FIRS and the Increasing Need to Boost Customer Service

Raheem Akingbolu writes on how easy payments can increase the revenue drive of the Federal Inland Revenue Service

As government revenue collector, much is expected from the Federal Inland Revenue Service. In these days of decline in oil revenue, with the global slide in prices and the bombing of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, the federal government agency is under very intense pressure to up revenue and make up for arising shortfalls.

The FIRS had, in the past, chiefly relied on its legion of field enforcement teams to drive tax compliance. But as awareness on the need to pay taxes and the dire consequences of failure, electronic payment platforms have been created that ensure voluntary payments are made a lot easier for individuals and companies.

Three firms have been appointed to handle this. They are; Interswitch, Systemspecs and the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS). What this means is that a firm or individual that wants to pay tax has only to log on the FIRS website and is easily linked to any payment platform of his or her choice to facilitate payment.
As things are, the whole idea of e-payment is to make payments of all sorts easy and convenient for the customer. Whether a payee is making a purchase or paying tax or transferring money to a loved one, e-payment makes it easy.

FIRS landing lage
Those who design such platforms also work hard to ensure easy navigation by just about anybody that has the ability to navigate a smartphone. The stress free nature of this mode is a major attraction and, in case some do not know, that is the key reason behind the growth of e-commerce in Nigeria as in elsewhere in the world.
Many observers feel there is a conspiracy on the part of e-payment platforms in the country not to make it easy for people to pay their taxes electronically. It is also believed in some quarters that perhaps the promoters of the various platforms are not ready to provide such service.

This reporter alongside others recently took a look at the FIRS space when they saw the “E-TAX” payment window and decided to explore it and the outcome? At the end of the exercise, it was observed that only Remita, the e-collections product from Systemspecs looked like it had the customer in mind in designing its solution. Others like Interswitch and NISS appeared to be interested in using the FIRS window to advertise their online portals than anything else.

When an intending payee click on the “E-TAX window on the FIRS portal, it takes him or her to another window where the links to the three payment platforms are located. On clicking the Interswitch link, a new tab will immediately take the payee to the Interswitch website. It is like logging into the site directly. One has to start afresh to take a tour to find where and how he or she can rig up to the payment window. With this, it appears Interswitch is not making the “switch” easy for FIRS customers
This is not essentially what the customer wants at this stage. The customer does not want a tour of Interswitch. He wants to make payment to FIRS and if he does not get that, the experience would be enough to frustrate him.

Pundits have urged NIBSS to do better than provide a link that takes customers to nowhere. According to Alhaji Rufai Shittu, the process at NIBSS is almost the same as that of Interswitch.
“One has to get unto the NIBBS space and then begin a fresh search for how and where to click and then follow other prompts before you get to where you fill a coupon for payment. The firm even makes it harder by asking for log in details from customers.
“NIBSS even asks for customer log in details. Meaning you have to first register and become a customer before searching for where you can begin the process of making payment. But are the guys here NIBSS customers or FIRS customers? Only the revenue hunters can answer this,” he said.

Remit’s approach appears to be friendlier to customers than others. When the firm’s window is opened at the FIRS, one is immediately taken to a very simple tab where the form the intending payee would use to make payment will be displayed. It then takes one direct into a tab ready to receive payment information

If there is anything the company has done well, it is easy accessibility. It answers questions immediately and lead customers on tour of the site for other opportunities.
To boost revenue, many observers have called on FIRS to encourage Nigerians to make their payment without hassles. It is expected that the government agency should have engaged its service providers on the need to make payment simple for customers.

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