From Mathias Okwe, Abuja
IN a sweeping action to shore up Federation Accounts revenue in the face of dwindling fortunes in the crude oil sector, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has recovered of N16.8 billion from defaulting companies and tax revenue collecting institutions in the country.
The amount represents part of the over N260 billion reportedly being owed the agencies by defaulting firms and those collecting taxes on behalf of the FIRS, who have refused to remit them to the appropriate government coffers.
The debt recovery was accomplished by the tax agency in the last one month through a task force and other persuasive strategies employed by the tax agency, according to information contained in a quartely report of the FIRS released in Abuja recently.
The development emerged as the tax agency also in the Quarterly Report announced that it realised a total N632.6 billion in five months, January-May 2009 and that it has begun a process to check the bleeding of its revenue by collecting agencies as from the year 2014.
The tax revenue figure for the first five months this year however fell short of expectation by the sum of N151.722 billion, according to the report. The agency had budgeted N784.290 billion for the period under review, but ended up raising the sum of N632.567 billion, ostensibly due to the down- turn on economic activities as explained last month by its Executive Chairman, Mrs. Ifueko Omogui - Okaru at a function.
The report further declared that the realisation of N16. 8 billion is a fall out of the enforcement activities of the Service, signalling the service's resolve to whip recalcitrant taxpayers into line and tough time head for tax evaders.
The report read in part, "pursuant to Section 33 of Federal Inland Revenue Service Establishment Act 2007, the Service embarked on distrait exercises on some companies in Ogun, Lagos, Osun, and Benue States in the month of May 2009.
"As a consequence of these activities, the sum of $108.4m and N1billion, resulting in a total amount of about N16.8 billion was paid to the service. Additional payments are due in June. Agreements were reached with three of the companies involved for conclusion of reconciliation efforts and finalisation of liabilities due for payment.
"FIRS is auditing companies that are suspected to be evading taxes due and it is expected that this would lead to further enforcement action in the months ahead. Taxpayers are please advised to kindly pay any taxes due before any enforcement effort commences.
"To strengthen the ability of the service to enforce payment of taxes, the service has now fully implemented the provisions of S.35 of the FIRSEA, which provide for Special Purpose Tax officers with the powers of the Police Officers to assist in the investigation and enforcement of cases.
" An independent unit has been set-up under the Office of the Executive Chairman, with an initial complement of officers seconded from the Nigeria Police Force.
"The Service has concluded compiling updated arrears for Federal and state government MDAs and corporate tax payers based on work done to date to December 2008. Staff have been directed to commence the enforcement of these arrears in strict compliance with the provisions of the law and due process.
Meanwhile, the report said in line with the Federal Government directive and as part of the planned improvement in the payment process, public notices on tax e-payment rules have already been issued to all ministries, departments and agencies.
The new provisions require, according to the report, stoppage of all prior practices of placing tax payments into an intermediary account.
All tax payments without exception are to be paid directly into the FIRS accounts in banks
All remittances to be accompanied with detailed schedules as provided and each schedule to set out the Tax payer's Identification Number,
All returns to be submitted in prescribed format and forwarded to the relevant tax office no later than thirty days from the date the amount was deducted or the duty to deduct arose. During the quarter, new bank collection agreements were introduced to tighten the rules that had led to a backlog of unremitted taxes. These new rules seek to block identified loopholes in the collection system.