Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
The Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) has raised the alarm over what it described as new tax-evading strategies by members of the business community.
The FIRSâ€™ Executive Chairman, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, disclosed in Abuja yesterday that tax authorities â€œare aware that the business community are setting up processes and structures which our legal and tax regimes did not contemplate and are struggling to keep up with.â€
Speaking at the 13th General Assembly meeting and official launch of the West African Tax Administration Forum (WATAF),
Fowler lamented that â€œnowadays, trade and commerce have become borderless, especially with the advent of e-commerce, hybrid financial instruments coupled with increased sophistication and ingenuity of the army of tax advisors.â€
According to him, at the receiving end of the activities of these tax evaders are the host country and its nationals, whose governments are losing revenues that should have been put to use for the development.
Fowler therefore advocated that it has become â€œpertinent that tax administrations in West Africa re-strategizes if they are to live up to their mandate.â€
One of the viable means of checkmating these nefarious activities, he pointed, out, â€œis by implementing initiatives to tackle tax abuses.â€
While the dynamics of tax administration might vary among countries within the West Africa Sub-region, he noted that the challenges of tax evasion and avoidance schemes are similar, â€œhence collaboration, information and experience sharing among tax administrators across jurisdictions is valuable to addressing the high rate of abusive tax practises among our taxpayers.
In Nigeria, the FIRS boss disclosed that in the last two years, the Service has â€œtaken the route of increasing the use of ICT in facilitating taxpayersâ€™ compliance and introduced initiatives to improve inter-agency collaboration, all with view to enhancing tax administration and reduce tax revenue leakages.â€
To this end, efforts in this regard, he said â€œhave made an impact and contributed to an increase in the taxpayers roll by an additional four million taxpayers (companies and individuals) and an increase of over N700 billion (equivalent of 2 Billion US Dollars) in Tax revenues in 2017, above the taxes collected in 2016.â€
In her address, the Chairperson of WATAF, Mrs Elfrieda Tamba, said the aim of WATAF was to bring tax administrators within the region together to share knowledge, interact and share experiences in order to better tax administration in the region.
Tamba said West African countries must strengthen their capacity for sustainable development and how to use fund for its sustainable development.
According to her, â€œWATAF so far has consolidated its legal status, today we are celebrating the official launching of WATAF as a solid legal entity, fully empowered to engage in negotiation to enter contracts, to sue and be sued. Today, WATAF has concluded all the necessary requirements to honuor it foundation of agreement to be an international origination.â€