More than 81 percent 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.
This was disclosed in a presentation made by Research Director of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Tayo Oyedele, yesterday (Wednesday) at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Secretariat in Abuja.
Oyedele, who was in the company of the Chairman of the Fiscal Policy Roundtable, Sarah Alade, had paid a courtesy call on the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, 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.
Oyedele, who condemned the apathy of Nigerians on payment of taxes, said figures available to him reveal that there were 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 boss disclosed, however, that nearly 85 percent 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 placed, the research showed that local councils 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 stated while insisting that there were nonetheless 17 percent 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 minimized the tax regimes of the country from 354 to only 10, abrogating meaningless taxes as the ozone layer tax which the population can hardly understand.
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.