August 16, 2005/Source The PUNCH
The Federal Inland Revenue Service has recovered more than N11.9billion tax arrears from five oil companies.
The bulk of the money recovered came from Agip, which paid over $57.79million (N8.09billion).
The Executive Chairman of FIRS, Miss Ifueko Omoigui, told the National Assembly correspondents in Abuja, on Monday, that the recovery was part of efforts of the tax agency to increase governmentÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¾ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢s revenue.
According to her, Philips Oil paid over $13million (N1.8billion), while Halliburton paid more than $6.686million (N939million).
Four of the companies, Halliburton Group, Agip, Philips Oil and Technit Cimimontubi, made their payments in hard currencies, while Eagle Transport Limited paid in local currency.
Omoigui said Halliburton also paid to the FIRS N139.970million in local currency; Technit, $464, 204 (N64.988 million); while Eagles Transport paid N5.711million.
She did not give details on when the taxes started accumulating or whether the companies listed still have outstanding tax arrears.
But she explained that the recovery of the amount stemmed from a reinvigorated effort by her office to carry the reform message of the revenue portfolio of the Federal Government to the corporate taxpayers.
Omoigui, who was at the Senate to whip up support for the eight tax bills, spoke of reforms being put in place by FIRS to ensure better compliance by taxpayers.
She said three Value Added Tax tribunals had been established in Ibadan, Enugu and Kaduna for quick dispensation of VAT disputes.
According to her, one of the eight tax bills recommends that payment of VAT be increased from five per cent to 10 per cent.
She listed other bills before the National Assembly as the amendment of the Companies Income Tax Act; amendment of the Profit Tax Act; amendment of the Personal Income Tax Act; and amendment of VAT Act.
Others are bills for the amendment of Customs, Excise Tariff, etc. (Consolidation) Act; amendment of the National Sugar Development Council Act; and amendment of the National Automotive Council Act.
She also said there was a bill for an Act to establish the Federal Inland Revenue Service as an autonomous agency.
For effectiveness, Omoigui said a new corporate communication and taxpayer education services division had been set up for massive awareness and enlightenment of taxpayers.
In addition, she disclosed that a new investigation and intelligence division had been established while a new audit department for thorough, independent review of tax payersÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚Â¾ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ files had also been put in place.
She said an anti-corruption/transparency unit would handle all cases of corrupt practices within the agency or among its staff and taxpayers.
She regretted that in Nigeria, tax accounted for only 25 per cent of the total revenue of the Federal Government due to overdependence on oil proceeds by the government.
The chairman noted that since the discovery of oil, a bad precedent had been set with the perception that the country could still flourish without payment or collection of taxes.
She said there was need for tax reforms because, on the average, over 90 per cent of states\' revenue was derived from the Federal Government, except in the case of Lagos where 45 per cent accrued from other sources.
Omoigui attributed this to weak administration with high level of tax evasion, tax avoidance and systemic corruption.
The chairman explained the need for reformed laws focusing specifically on tax since \"current legislations contain ambiguities.\"
For instance, she said, \"Penalty and other enforcement provisions in existing laws have become obsolete and non-realistic.\"
She noted that in Nigeria, only the poor paid taxes while the affluent and small businesses were not taxed.
According to her, revenue boards at state levels were not professionally managed because the boards were staffed by people who were not professionals with requisite expertise in taxation.
She said only in a few cases were consultants used in a manner that truly added value, as distinct from where consultants took over the roles and responsibilities of revenue boards.