Fowler, Accountants Discuss Improved Revenue Base At ICAN Conference

The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) Babatunde Fowler has warned the nation’s accountants not to support tax evaders but to assist in building a larger revenue base for the nation.

At the 49th Annual Conference of the  Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, where Fowler was the keynote speaker at a panel discussion on “FIRS Power of Substitution. Critical Review and Matters Arising”, accountants and lawyers scoffed at Fowler’s admonition, alleging that he was employing strong tactics in getting taxpayers to be tax compliant. They told Fowler to abide, in strict terms, with the processes and stipulations of the FIRS Establishment Act 2007, which the FIRS Chairman maintained, is the source of his powers to place lien on the bank accounts of defaulting taxpayers. Fowler should collect taxes by abiding with the Rule of Law, the accountants charged. At the event chaired by former Executive Chairman, FIRS, Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, Fowler explained the dynamics involved in the Substitution of Accounts, and urged accountants at the conference to partner with FIRS to improve the revenue collection efforts of all tax authorities. “You play a very important role in this cycle. Without you, the chartered accountants, it will be very difficult to ensure that adequate taxes are being paid. Talking about corruption, corruption is not only when you do something wrong. Sometimes, corruption borders on when you do nothing at all. When you review the books that are brought to you, you do your own internal assessment on what your clients should pay, you are truthful, you drop accounts that are not willing to do the right thing”. “We should realise that the revenue collected by the FIRS is distributed among the three tiers of government: the Federal, State and Local Governments. Today, well over 30 states rely on that monthly collection. Without that monthly collection, you can imagine what life would be in those states”. “We are all here for this conference, certain that chartered accountants came from various states across the nation. If in your state, we were not able to support your revenue drive, what level of security would you have in your state? “I went to deliver a speech in one West African country. I was asked to come and encourage tax compliance, and I used a very simple example, an example I had used in Lagos, an example that you and I may not have thought about. Under the Joint Tax Board, JTB I went on a visit to a hospital in Lagos. The nurse complained about the highmortality rate of children under five. And I asked what was the main cause, she said ‘malaria’. And I said, so we have malaria medicine,she said ‘yes’. But I found out on that visit that for children, when malaria gets to a certain stage, it becomes irreversible and almost impossible to save that child. “The cost of that medicine for prevention is N2000. There are people in this country who do not have N2000 to treat malaria. Some pray and hope that the fever will break. But for some, they have no choice and they lose those children. They lose potential presidents. They lose potential political leaders. They lose potential inventors among others. This is endless. But with N2,000 you could save a life. “For those books that you look at, think about this. If you look at those books, you should know that for every additional N1billion or N2 billion that is collected, even if it is shared at the ratio of 52 per cent, your state and your local government will get the balance. N1 billion could build 10 medical facilities in those states. That is the impact and power that you have.” “”I am sure you wont allow those not paying taxes to go scot free “Before FIRS voted for lien on bank accounts of defaulting taxpayers, the Service granted a waiver of penalty and interest for three years (2013-2015), followed by the Voluntary Assets Income Declaration Scheme, VAIDS. It was when  millionaire and billionaire taxpayers with turnover of between N11 million and N1 billion did not take the opportunity to pay their taxes, that FIRS  decided to place lien on the accounts of defaulting taxpayers “All defaulting taxpayers were considered, provided that such taxpayers came forward to declare their indebtedness, pay at least 25% of the outstanding amount and present a payment plan on the outstanding tax liability that was acceptable to the Service. This window was opened from 5th October to 24th November, 2016. A total of 2,400 companies took advantage of the window, from which FIRS realized about N98.8 billion. “ The last speakers spoke about integrity and vision in public service. You may have the integrity, you may have the vision, but without the revenue, it remains a dream. Most of us here like to complain about what the government has done and what the government has not done, but even with the best vision and leadership, we still require revenue and the revenue certainly will come from taxes. “The Voluntary Assets Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) commenced on 1st July, 2017 to be run for a period of nine months was formally launched on the 29th of June, 2017 by the then Acting President, H.E. Yemi Osinbajo. VAIDS was an initiative designed to encourage voluntary disclosure of previously undisclosed assets and income for the purpose.


Source: Inside Business