Nigerian citizens are ready to pay their taxes given proper education and expenditure transparency on the allocation and application of resources by the government, according to a new survey by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group. The survey, Citizen Perception Report is the first of several research pieces to be published by the NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable in support of its tax reform and advocacy vehicle “Better Tax” supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
During the launching on Wednesday, Dr Sarah Alade, Chairman, NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable, said, the core concept of the roundtable was to reflect the needs and objectives that form the basis of a robust fiscal reform platform focused on mobilizing and growing the country’s tax revenue. According to Dr Alade, data from the Citizen Perception Survey reinforces the appalling level of fiscal responsibility in taxpayer education, which fuels apathy and low morale among taxpayers. She said, “beyond the general clamor for increasing revenues and the correlation with higher tax rates, there are other issues around taxpaying in Nigeria. There is the presumption that the Nigerian citizenry is apathetic to the payment of taxes, which makes the findings of the Citizen Perception Survey crucial.” The findings show that Nigerians are not averse to taxpaying given proper education and expenditure transparency on the allocation and application of resources by the Government. Fiscal Policy Roundtable Co-Chair Dr Doyin Salami, who was represented by Taiwo Oyedele – PWC West Africa Tax Leader and Research Director NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable said the government had been unable to meet recurrent and capital expenditures following a budget deficit of N3.8 billion and debt profile of N22.7 billion. Oyedele, who shared evidence-based data from the Citizen Report during his technical presentation at the event, disclosed that “low tax compliance results from tax complexity, crisis of trust in the government and inadequate social contract deliverables; while tax officials were constrained by inconsistent tax policies, limited resources, unrealistic targets, and inability to influence service delivery, among others”. Citing the data from the Citizens Perceptions Reports, he said that over 70% of Nigerians believe that “it is not wrong to pay taxes”. This sentiment is fuelled by the issues around the social contract between the government and the citizenry.