Babatunde Fowler: FIRS chairman
Less than a month after it commenced its substitution of accounts of recalcitrant billionaire taxpayers, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has collected N12.66 in tax revenue.
The Executive Chairman, FIRS, Tunde Fowler, disclosed this at the weekend when he received the new Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed during his spot visit to Revenue House, FIRS headquarters in Abuja.
Fowler spoke as Hajia Zainab Ahmed, the new finance minister commended the agency for shoring-up the non-oil revenue: “The Ministry of Finance will continue to work collaboratively with FIRS to support all the efforts that you are doing. And as much as possible, we should interface frequently. For us, the directive I have is to increase the tax revenue and that is the most important task ahead of all of us. You have done well. And the reward for good work is more work”, she said.
Hajia Ahmed urged the FIRS to “maintain the tempo” because literally, the country depends on the work that FIRS does to shore-up the revenue collection to support the government.
She encouraged government agencies to work together to fish out all corrupt persons in the country, stating that this is President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive.
“The FIRS is a very important agency of government. I wanted to underscore this importance. FIRS is one of the first agencies in the Ministry of Finance that I am meeting. The Federal Government Medium Term Plan is hinged on diversifying the economy away from the oil revenues to non-oil sector. And the report that the Executive Chairman of FIRS has presented indicates that the diversification effort is working. This is reflected in the turn of the contribution of non-oil revenues over the last three years.
“I am happy that we have a team in FIRS that is not only expanding the revenue base but also significantly improving tax collection and taking tax offices closer to the people and making it easier for the people to pay their taxes by online and e-tax payment procedures that you have undertaken. And I am sure that, from what I have heard today, that you would continue with all these processes.
“I am also glad that you are increasing cooperation with several agencies like the EFCC, ICPC and Nigeria Customs Service. This is important because the directive from the president for anti-corruption involves cooperation within yourselves as well as with anti-corruption agencies. It makes a lot of sense to prioritise tax collection to larger categories: from the big ones to other ones. The effort you are doing in Abuja, Lagos and Osun –(on payment of taxes on property using their turnover as basis for assessment)- is a commendable one and I encourage you to maintain the tempo in generating tax revenues”, she said.
She said the country needs to continue with the efforts to strengthen the non-oil sector, stating that the part that FIRS should play is to continue with its efforts so that the non-oil sector would generate larger part of the tax revenue on sustainable basis.
About a month ago, the FIRS commenced substitution of the bank accounts of High Networth billionaire tax defaulters.
Fowler told the minister that the initiative has pooled about N12. 66 billion into the government coffers.
“FIRS wrote to all commercial banks in May 2018, requesting for a list of Companies, Partnerships, and Enterprises with a banking turnover of N1 billion and above. This activity is aimed at ascertaining those companies that are compliant with the Tax Laws and those that are not compliant. So far, non-compliant organization have paid about N12.66bn
“The FIRS will continue to implement initiatives that will drive compliance and generate revenue by continuous taxpayer enlightenment, implementation of the Auto VAT Collect in other sectors of the economy, simplification of the tax processes especially for small taxpayers, strengthening collaborations with other agencies such as CAC, States Boards of Internal Revenue, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Nigeria Customs Service”, Fowler said.
The FIRS Chairman also told the minister that the Service realised the sum of N2.983 billion from payment on demand notices on property owners who are being assessed based on their turnover and that 653 of 2, 672 of such non-filers have starting filing now.
From enforcement, Fowler said FIRS has collected a total of N47.5 billion from 2016 till date and $32.8 million dollars, £5.9 pounds, netted N225 billion from audit and has collected more than N1 trillion above its January to August collection last year (2017).
He said that FIRS’ collection of N4.03 trillion in 2017 has 62.25 percent as non-oil while oil is just 37.75 percent. It was 64.99 in favour of non-oil in 2016 and 35.01 for oil. In 2018, the FIRS has done 54.56 percent for non-oil and 45.44 percent for oil receipts.
Fowler added that Value Added Tax (VAT) receipt is on a steady increase. “So far in 2018, the FIRS has collected 773.49bn in eight months. The above collected this year has already surpassed that of 2015 (767.33bn), and is set to surpass 2016 (828.19bn), and 2017 (972.30bn) with four more collection months left in the year.
“e-stamp duties collection is on a steady increase. So far in 2018, the FIRS have collected 10.10bn in eight months. The above collected this year has already surpassed that of 2017 (10.9bn), 2016 (5.6bn), and 2015 (7.1bn)”, Fowler said.
Three weeks ago, the FIRS Chairman explained at a stakeholders event in Lagos that substitution is allowed in the nation’s laws and empowers FIRS to appoint banks as collection agents for tax.
“So, all these ones of TIN and no pay and no TIN and no pay, to the total of 6772 will have their accounts frozen or put under substitution pending when they come forward. First, they refused to come forward in 2016, they refused to come forward under VAT and are still operating here. So, we are putting them under notice that it is their civic responsibility to pay tax and to file returns on these accounts.
“We looked all businesses, partnerships, corporate accounts that have a minimum turnover of N1 billion per annum for the past three years. First of all, the law states clearly that before you open a corporate account, part of the opening documentation is the tax I.D. From the 23 banks, we have analysed so far, we have 31,395 records, out of which effectively minus duplications we had 18,602.
“We broke those into three categories: Those that have TIN tax I.D, those that don’t have no TIN and of course no TIN no pay and those that have TIN and have not even paid anything. So, on a minimum, every company or business included here over the last three years have had a banking turnover of N3 billion and above. Some of them have had banking turnover of over N5 billion and have not paid one kobo in taxes. Now the total number of TIN and no pay is 6772.
“So, if someone is good in mathematics and you take the minimum level of N3 billion multiply by 409 and they are operating within our society and economy and do not remit or make any tax payment.