BY JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH
ABUJA (LEADERSHIP) -- More than 81 % of taxable adults and businesses in Nigeria do not pay their income taxes due to low tax moral in the country, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has learnt.
According to a statement by the media office of the NGF, this was disclosed in a presentation made by the research director of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Mr. Tayo Oyedele, yesterday at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat in Abuja.
Oyedele, who was in the company of the chairman of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable, FPR, Dr Sarah Alade, had paid a courtesy call on the director-general of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr. Asishana Bayo Okauru, to solicit an opportunity to expose this sour narrative to the nation’s governors and seek their involvement to correct the ills that are denying the country of its collectible revenues.
The director of Research who condemned the seeming national apathy of Nigerians on payment of taxes said that figures available to him reveal that there are 20 million registered taxpayers in the country, scoffing at the figure which seems paltry compared to the presumed nation’s population of nearly 200 million people.
While explaining the concept and reasons adduced to the nation’s low tax moral, the NESG buff disclosed however, that nearly 85% of those who deem it unnecessary to pay taxes to the government willingly pay same to “non-government actors.”
This ironic twist, the NESG attributed to the distrust that pervades the environment when it comes to paying taxes, dues and levies to a government that does not command the public’ trust.
Of the tiers of government on whose shoulders tax collection is reposed, the research showed that Local Governments and their officials are among the most untrustworthy, followed by state governments and then the tax officials themselves.
“Many believe that it is unwise to pay taxes to entities that do not translate taxes to services or to officials who diverted same to personal use,” Oyedele said, while insisting that there were nonetheless 17% of the population who see the payment of taxes as a civic duty which all must perform.
Maintaining that there were 354 taxes in Nigeria, which create duplicity of taxes and favoritism on where to audit and where not to audit, not minding the unprofessional conduct of tax collectors, who sometimes threaten the public, NESG also regretted that the penalties for non-payment of taxes in Nigeria were not only unhurtful and not punitive enough, but that the processes of penalizing reluctant taxpayers were selective.
The NESG therefore recommended that it would have been better if the country minimised the tax regimes of the country from 354 to only 10, abrogating such meaningless taxes as the ozone layer tax which the population can hardly fathom.
According to the research as narrated by the NESG, personal income taxpayers would have been happier to pay their taxes if education, health and infrastructural provision were raised to global standards, while corporate taxpayers would love to see electricity, roads and security improved.
The director-general of the NGF said the situation is a looming calamity which must be addressed forthwith, while thanking the NESG group for bringing this horrendous narrative to the knowledge of the forum.