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Tax waivers cost Nigeria $2.9bn annually

Jul 18, 2019
Oxfam International, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, has said that Nigeria loses about $2.9 billion (about N580 billion) yearly to tax waivers granted multinational companies
Nigeria Country Director of the organisation in Nigeria, Constant Tchona, said this on Wednesday at the launch of two reports – Fair Tax Monitor Index and the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index in Abuja.
He noted that thirty per cent of the companies in Nigeria evade tax, while 25 per cent do not pay.
He mentioned that the fiscal incentives granted with the hope of stimulating investments into the country’s economy were eroded with poor governance and lack of transparency, especially when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had confirmed that there was no cost-benefit analysis to justify the exemptions and when there was no check on the discretionary powers residing with the executive in granting exemptions.
He added,  “The procedures for granting tax incentives should undergo a thorough review, focused on transparency and governance. This should include mandatory parliamentary oversight, publication of annual tax expenditure reports, clear requirements for incentives and periodic review of expected results.”
Taxpayers, he said, often opted to negotiate with corrupt tax administration staff in return for gratifications and reduced sums.
This action, Tchona explained, is against the sanctions imposed by the Company Income Tax Act for such conduct.
He called on the Federal Government to hasted action on the new National Tax Policy (NTP) and clamp down on corporate crimes.
“Official Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) numbers suggest that the entire tax system is fraught with crippling challenges of weak enforcement, corruption and outright evasion. The records show that about 30 per cent of companies in Nigeria are involved in tax evasion and also 25 per cent of registered companies in the country are not paying tax.
“Taxpayers often opt to negotiate with corrupt tax administration staff in return for gratifications and reduced sums to the coffers of the government. This is despite the sanctions imposed by the same Company Income Tax Act for such conduct,” he said.
In addressing this,  he urged the National Assembly to enact law that would criminalise the actions of banks, auditors, accountants and lawyers that facilitate illicit financial flows from the country.
“The National assembly should enact a law that will criminalise totally the actions of middlemen – banks, auditors, accountants, and lawyers that facilitate Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs). When such professionals act contrary to existing regulations, they should be held accountable in Nigeria. This can be enforced through strengthened professional association bodies.
“The tax system should be reviewed and amended to be more equitable to women as drivers of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); most especially Personal Income Tax Act in the unorganised sector needs to be amended to ensure they achieve gender equity, legitimate, and consistent with the government’s commitment to gender equity,” he submitted.