By Etuka Sunday
Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Muhammad Nami, has charged the Nigerian elites to be exemplar taxpayers to the rest of the population by making full disclosure of their taxable incomes to the Service for accurate tax assessment and prompt payment of their fair share of tax to the government in order to engender rapid national development.
The Director, Communications and Liaison Department,FIRS, Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmad in a statement said, Mr. Nami made this appeal during an interaction with a select group of newsmen following his appearance before the House of Representatives’ Public Account Committee (PAC) on Thursday at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, chaired by Hon. Oluwole Oke.
Nami, who only assumed duty at the FIRS three months ago, furnished PAC with the audited accounts of the FIRS for 2014 and 2017, and pledged to forward the up-to-date FIRS audited accounts to the committee without delay, stressing that the FIRS on his watch will show good example to other government entities by auditing its accounts promptly and forwarding same to PAC and other relevant supervisory authorities.
The PAC sympathized with Mr. Nami over the failure of his predecessors in office to submit their audited accounts to the National Assembly for oversight purposes as and when due, which created the backlog that Nami is now working to clear.
Urging him to forward the outstanding audited accounts to the Committee as quickly as possible, PAC said it expects the FIRS helmsman and his Board to finish up their on-going concurrent audit of the FIRS accounts for the years 2018 and 2019 and submit them to PAC promptly.
According to Mr. Nami, “the Nigerian elites must work to change the masses’ perception of us as tax dodgers. When it comes to tax matters, our image out there as elite in the society is that of unpatriotic privileged people who resort to all sorts of tax avoidance and tax evasion schemes despite making good money or returns in their businesses. To the man on the street, the typical Nigerian elite makes so much from the system in terms of taxable income, yet he or she does not pay his or her fair share of tax to the government.
“The belief out there – which is not without some validity and it is not mere elite bashing – is that the typical Nigerian big man plays the system and does not pay the correct tax on his income. That it is the less-earning population like the civil servants and other members of the working class in both the public and private sectors who pay tax, which is typically and compulsorily deducted from their salaries.”
The FIRS boss added: “Going forward, this should change. The upper echelon of society must see tax avoidance and tax evasion as unpatriotic act, and stop it forthwith. The era where the Nigerian big man shirks his tax responsibilities to the nation is gone. It is a thing of the past as the FIRS under the current Board and Management will press everyone, especially the tax dodging elites, to pay their fair share of tax for the overall benefit of all in the nation-building process.
“Those of us in the public eye like the distinguished members of the National Assembly have a leading role to play in this regard, especially in their private businesses and in companies where they are shareholders. They need to show good examples by paying their correct assessment of tax and very promptly too in order to promote voluntary tax compliance across all strata of the Nigerian society. The elites must take the lead in this patriotic national duty to pay tax as and when due.”