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We’ll go After Billionaire Tax Defaulters – FIRS

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  • We’ll go After Billionaire Tax Defaulters – FIRS

The Federal Inland Revenue Service will soon go after the bank accounts of defaulting taxpayers, who are raking in billions of naira in Nigeria and are not paying taxes, according to the FIRS Chairman, Tunde Fowler.

In doing that, the FIRS, through all banks in the country, would do substitution on the accounts, Fowler said, adding that over 6,772 of such defaulting billionaires had been identified by the agency through bank data.

Fowler, who disclosed this at a stakeholders’ meeting, according to a statement on Sunday, noted that most of such taxpayers, who had between N1bn and N5bn in their accounts, had no Taxpayer Identification Number, or had TIN but were not filing any tax returns.

The FIRS chairman stated, “What we have done is what we call substitution, which also is in our laws, and which empowers us to appoint the banks as collection agents for taxes. So, all these ones with TIN and no pay, and no TIN and no pay, totalling 6,772 will have their accounts frozen or put under substitution pending when they come forward.

“First, they refused to come forward in 2016; they refused to come forward under VAIDS and are still operating here. So, we are putting them under notice that it is their civic responsibility to pay tax and to file returns on these accounts.”

Fowler further explained, “We looked at all businesses, partnerships and corporate accounts that have a minimum turnover of N1bn per annum for the past three years. First of all, the law states clearly that before you open a corporate account, part of the opening documentation is the tax ID. From the 23 banks, we have analysed so far, we have 31,395 records, out of which effectively, minus duplications, we had 18,602.

“We broke those into three categories. Those that have TIN tax ID; those that don’t have TIN, and of course, no TIN no pay; and those that have TIN and have not even paid anything.

“So, on a minimum, every company or business included here over the last three years has had a banking turnover of N3bn and above. Some of them have had banking turnover of over N5bn and have not paid one kobo in taxes. Now, the total number of TIN and no pay is 6,772.”

Paraphrasing the Nobel Laurette, Prof Wole Soyinka’s famous quotation of a wasted generation, Fowler said this generation should not repeat Soyinka statement by their conduct, adding, “I plead with the banks to support us; in supporting us, you are supporting Nigeria. In supporting Nigeria, you are supporting all Nigerians and those who have chosen Nigeria as home. And most of all, you are supporting a future that we can leave behind for the upcoming youths of Nigeria.

“I remember this when we were growing up, a statement made by Wole Soyinka that our generation was a wasted generation. That has remained in my mind for many years. Wole Soyinka is still alive. His generation is a generation of 80s and above. Let us not look back and say also our generation has not left any value behind. I think it is time for us to change.”

He noted that the FIRS was also paying closer attention to audit, stating, “We have started a comprehensive audit exercise that involves both national and regional audits…because we got to a position where we found out that majority of the major organisations that were allowed to do self-assessment did not truthfully declare or pay the taxes that were due. To date, we have raised assessment of over N805bn from 1,324 national audits, out of which 499 (taxpayers) have N219bn.”

He did not spare the FIRS even though it had made over N1tn in its collection between January and August this year.

Fowler added, “If you look at the 2018 revenue to date, between January and August, we have done N3.5tn, which is N1tn over 2017. But the main point I want to make is that majority of taxpayers that accounted for this revenue have not changed. The laws have not changed. And to a great extent, the consultants to these companies have not changed. If you look at 2017, there was an increase of close to N800bn over the 2016 collection.

“The increase in 2018 so far showed N1tn. If the same consultants advised or reviewed the accounts of the majority of the taxpayers, one would wonder why such large increases occurred. It is either the taxpayers did not disclose fully their financials to the consultants or the consultants were involved in tax planning. Either way, it is not for the wellbeing of our nation, Nigeria.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

Electricity Consumers Get 611,231 Meters Under MAP Scheme

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Electricity Consumers Get 611,231 Meters Under MAP Scheme

A total of 611,231 meters have been deployed as at January 31, 2021 under the Meter Asset Provider initiative since its full operation despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other extraneous factors, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission has said.

NERC disclosed this in a consultation paper on the review of the MAP Regulations.

The proposed review of the MAP scheme is coming nearly four months after the Federal Government launched a new initiative called National Mass Metering Programme aimed at distributing six million meters to consumers free of charge.

“The existence of a huge metering gap and the need to ensure successful implementation of the MYTO 2020 Service-Based Tariff resulted in the approval of the NMMP, a policy of the Federal Government anchored on the provision of long-term low interest financing to the Discos,” NERC said.

The commission had in March 2018 approved the MAP Regulations with the aim of fast-tracking the closure of the metering gap in the sector through the engagement of third-party investors (called meter asset providers) for the financing, procurement, supply, installation and maintenance of meters.

It set a target of providing meters to all customers within three years, and directed the Discos and the approved MAPs to commence the rollout of meters not later than May 1, 2019.

But in February 2020, NERC said several constraints, including changes in fiscal policy and the limited availability of long-term funding, had led to limited success in meter rollout.

NERC, in the consultation paper, highlighted three proposed options for metering implementation going forward.

The first option is to allow the implementation of both the NMMP and MAP metering frameworks to run concurrently; the second is to continue with the current MAP framework with meters procured under the NMMP supplied only through MAPs (by being off-takers from the local manufacturers/assemblers).

The third option is to wind down the MAP framework and allow the Discos to procure meters directly from local manufacturers/assemblers (or as procured by the World Bank), and enter into new contracts for the installation and maintenance of such meters.

“Customers who choose not to wait to receive meters based on the deployment schedule of the NMMP shall continue to have the option of making upfront payments for meters which will be installed within a maximum period of 10 working days,” NERC said.

The regulator said such customers would be refunded by the Discos through energy credits, adding that there would be no option for meter acquisition through the payment of a monthly meter service charge.

“Where meters have already been deployed under the meter service charge option, Discos shall make one-off repayment to affected customers and associated MAPs. Such meters shall be recognised in the rate base of the Discos,” it added.

NERC urged stakeholders to provide comments, objections, and representations on the proposed amendments within 21 days of the publication of the consultation paper.

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Economy

Nigeria’s Economy Moving in Right Direction but Slow – Amina Mohammed

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Nigeria’s Economy Moving in Right Direction but Slow – Amina Mohammed

Nigeria is moving in the right direction economically but its movement is not fast, the United Nations stated on Thursday.

Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, said this during a meeting at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in Abuja.

She said the challenges in Nigeria were huge, its population large but described the country’s economy as great with lots of opportunities.

The UN scribe stated that after traveling by train and through various roads in the Northern parts of Nigeria, she discovered that the roads were motorable, although there were ongoing repairs on some of them.

Mohammed said, “This is a country that is diverse in nature, ethnicity, religious backgrounds and opportunities. But these are its strengths, not weaknesses.

“And I think the narrative for Nigeria has to change to one that is very much the reality.”

Speaking on her trips across parts of Nigeria, she said, “What I saw along the way is really a country that is growing, that is moving in the right direction economically. Is it fast enough? No. Is it in the right direction? Yes it is.

“And the challenges still remain with security, our social cohesion and social contract between government and the people. But I know that people are working on these issues.”

She said the UN recognised the reforms in Nigeria and other nations, adding that the common global agenda was the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mohammad commended Nigeria’s quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as she expressed hope that the arrival of vaccines would be the beginning of the end of COVID-19.

On his part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo, told his guest that the Federal Government was working hard to make Nigeria the entrepreneurial hub of Africa.

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Economy

N10.7tn Spent on Fuel Subsidy in 10 Years – MOMAN

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N10.7tn Spent on Fuel Subsidy in 10 Years – MOMAN

Nigeria spent a total of N10.7tn on fuel subsidy in the last 10 years, the Chairman, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Adetunji Oyebanji, has said.

Oyebanji, who was the guest speaker at the 18th Aret Adams Lecture on Thursday, said N750bn was spent on subsidy in 2019.

He highlighted the need for a transition to a market-driven environment through policy-backed legislative and commercial frameworks, enabling the sustainability of the downstream petroleum sector.

“Total deregulation is more than just the removal of price subsidies; it is aimed at improving business operations, increasing the investments in the oil and gas sector value chain, resulting in the growth in the nation’s downstream petroleum sector as a whole,” he said.

The managing director of 11 Plc (formerly Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc) said steps had been taken, “but larger and faster leaps are now required.”

According to him, deregulation requires the creation of a competitive market environment, and will guarantee the supply of products at commercial and market prices.

“It requires unrestricted and profitable investments in infrastructure, earning reasonable returns to investors. It requires a strong regulator to enable transparency and fair competition among players, and not to regulate prices,” Oyebanji said.

He noted that MOMAN had recently called for a national debate by stakeholders to share pragmatic and realistic initiatives to ease the impact of the subsidy removal on society – especially on the most vulnerable.

He said, “A shift from crude oil production to crude oil full value realisation through deliberate investment in domestic refining and refined products distribution, creates the opportunity to transform the dynamics of the downstream sector from one of ‘net importer’ to one of ‘net exporter’, spurring the growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Effective reforms and regulations are key drivers for the growth within the refining sector. Non-functional refineries cost Nigeria over $13bn in 2019. If the NNPC refineries were operating at optimal capacity, Nigeria would have imported only 40 per cent of what it consumed in 2019.”

Full deregulation of the downstream sector remains the most glaring boost to potential investors in this space, according to Oyebanji.

He said, “As crude oil prices will fluctuate depending on the prevailing exchange rates, it will be astute to trade in naira to avoid inevitable price swings.

“There needs to be a balance between ensuring the sustainable growth of the crude oil value chain (upstream through downstream) and providing value for the Nigerian consumer and the Nigerian economy.”

He said the philosophy should be for the government to put the legislative and commercial framework in place and let the market develop by itself.

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