PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, launched the nationwide Tax Identification Number and the National Tax Policy, saying that Nigerians should imbibe the tax culture in order to hold the leaders accountable on how they use the tax funds in governance.
He regretted that wealthy Nigerians who travel first class on commercial airlines but pay taxes comparable to junior officials.
The Tax Identification Number (TIN), introduced by the Joint Tax Board, sets broad parameters for taxation and other ancillary matters, and provides clear principles governing tax administration and revenue collection. A collaborative project between the Federal and state governments as a key deliverable under the National Tax Policy provides a nationwide electronic database system for the registration and storage of data of tax-payers in Nigeria.
Stating the imperative of the TIN and the new national tax policy, the President said: “We want to institutionalise a tax culture among Nigerians so that we see ourselves as custodians of the tax system and our commonwealth. We are definitely on the right track. Of course, it is only when you pay tax that you can talk of tax-payers’ money. You can proudly challenge anybody you think is misusing public funds because it is your tax that the person is misusing. But those who don’t pay tax are those who shout more in Nigeria. I think the FIRS chairman should make sure that everybody pays tax in this country and those who talk more should be assessed properly.
“Most of the social critics who come on television and radio and write in the newspapers don’t pay tax. If at all because they want to buy land or one thing or the other and the governors insist they must pay tax, they undervalue themselves. Somebody will be travelling abroad every month and travel first class. But the tax he will pay is not up to the tax a level four officer pays in government. In other countries, those are criminal offences. But here, such people are celebrated as heroes.”
Jonathan, who took time from his week-long working leave to preside over the ceremony, said that with the launch, the foundation is laid for the complete transformation of the Nigerian tax system. It is a revolutionary tool for tax administration and holds immense potential not just for expanding the nationwide tax base with consequent increase in revenue collection accruable to all tiers of government, but is also a big step in the modernisation of the Nigerian tax system, in line with global best practices and expectations.
“What we seek to achieve with the introduction of the National Tax Policy is to have a nation and a people who see taxation as a partnership with government. We want to create a participatory system of taxation where the tax-payers and other stakeholders all see that they have an equal stake in the tax system. We want to create an economy that is self-sufficient and does not depend wholly on resource wealth to bring development to the people. Over and above all, we want to institutionalise a tax culture amongst Nigerians such that we see ourselves as custodians of the tax system and our commonwealth. We definitely are on the right track.”
The President commended the Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as well as workers of the Federal Ministry of Finance, “under whose diligent watch the reforms of the Nigerian tax system commenced and are being efficiently prosecuted.”
He also commended the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service and Chairman, Joint Tax Board, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, “for her dedicated and exemplary service to the nation over the last eight years. She has no doubt put the Nigerian tax system on an impressive pedestal and has overseen reforms and revenue generation that are unmatched in the history of the Nigerian tax system. This government is particularly honoured to have had your distinguished service and, as you conclude your tenure, we wish you unqualified success in all your future endeavours. It is my hope that you will be ready and willing to avail the nation of your committed service should occasion demands.”
The idea of a National Tax Policy first arose from the report of a Presidential Study Group and a Private Sector Working Group set up in 2002, which examined the Nigerian tax system and made recommendations towards entrenching a better tax policy and improving tax administration in the country.
In her remarks, Okonjo-Iweala said the new tax policy was revolutionary, as it would help curb corruption in tax administration in the country.