FIRS: Between tax collection and charity

The Federal Inland Revenue Service has over the past few years gone through a well-integrated and carefully implemented transformation agenda which translated to substantial gains in terms of the implications for improved non-oil tax revenue earning capacity for the country.

Arguably as one of the public agencies whose operational platforms have been strengthened by massive Information Technology infrastructure and well-trained human capital endowment, the Service is not only fully positioned for effective tax administration in the years ahead but has, by its recent achievements in area of its core mandate as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) foray into other crucial sectors, demonstrated itself as a vision-driven organisation with a large heart for the well-being of some old and young Nigerians.

For instance, a few months ago, the FIRS provided some support to needy Nigerians by offering them free medical services, skill acquisition training, guidance and counseling on career choices to youths, adults and parents.

In the project which took place in Igarra, Edo State, about 300 Nigerians got free eye tests, while 158 others got eye glasses based on test carried out on them tested for different levels of eye ailments. Similarly, several indigenes of the community and others within its vicinity also benefited from different kinds of eye treatment and more than 261 persons were tested for HIV/AIDS, H pertension and Diabetes.

In her paper titled “Leadership and Actualising Your Potential” delivered at the opening session of the weeklong intervention programme, the immediate past Executive Chairman of the Service, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui- Okauru, urged the people to be productive and take their destiny in their own hands.

She pointed out that God has given everybody the right to choose from succeeding and failing and encouraged the people to work hard and be focused in order to achieve their aspirations, adding that “your background does not matter. Whether you are born rich or poor, if you decide to achieve success, then, you will”.

Expressing satisfaction at the people’s turn-out for the exercise, the tax administration Amazon said she was happy to see that her dream to give back to the people is coming to fruition.

Her words: “Thank you for making our (FIRS) dream a success. The truth of the matter is that we (FIRS) and other organisations cannot give everybody jobs. But there are many things out there which you can make a decent living on. We then decided to use this opportunity of the ABA festival to educate the people.

“If God has blessed us this much, why then should we stay at home, in poverty, waiting for a magic day, which is not coming, when everybody will have a job? We decided to focus on the things that are important to the community like skills acquisition and health.

That is why we chose to use this opportunity to offer free skill acquisition training and medical services”, Omoigui-Okauru said. Some other indigent people were also trained in Agriculture, Building, Plumbing, Construction Engineering and Photography, amongst other fields of academic/vocational endeavours.

In addition to intervening in the healthcare sector, the FIRS has also focused its CSR searchlight on the education sector thorugh its sponsorship of the Presidential School Debate (PSD) competition for secondary schools nationwide. Omoigui Okauru, said that debate offered opportunity for students to propagate a taxpaying culture and a Nigeria where taxation would be the bedrock for sustainable development.

Represented at the flag-off ceremony in Lagos about 16 months ago by Mr. Joseph Osaghe, Tax Controller Victoria Island, the FIRS boss explained that the exercise would further enlighten the younger generation on issues of tax education, and build culture of voluntary tax compliance, adding that the Service decided to sponsor the 2011 debate competition in order to promote a good tax culture among Nigerian youth.

“I am aware that this competition has been on since 2000 and I am greatly honoured when the organisers invited FIRS to sponsor this year’s edition and to make taxation its theme.

It has always been part of our efforts in FIRS to strike a balance between the implementation of tax laws and educating the populace (taxpayers) to willingly obey the laws in order to ensure voluntary tax compliance in Nigeria.

This effort is not only aimed at ensuring more revenue generation and simplicity in tax administration, but to build a bridge between the old and the younger generation to enhance the culture of tax compliance” she added

Okauru, who recalled the inauguration of the Board of the Student’s Tax Advocacy initiative (STAI) in 2010 as part of the steps being taken to build a culture of tax compliance in the people, said that “the establishment of STAI is one of the multi-dimensional approaches employed by the Service to promote taxation in the education sector”

In the area of its core mandate, the FIRS has also in the past three years been surpassing governments and other stakeholders’ expectations on revenue generation and tax awareness campaigns amongst other initiatives that are transforming into a public sector brand that is warming itself into the hearts of taxpayers.

For instance, for the 11 month ended November 30, 2012, the agency’s tax revenue collection profile which stood at N4.645 trillion had surpassed the N3.6 trillion provisional annual budget estimates for the year and total collections of N4.628 trillion for the 2011 year.

“The collection represents an increase revenue collection performance of about N17.07 billion when compared to the total collection for 2011 and also an increase in the Service tax revenue collection performance of about N485.43 billion when compared with the total revenue of N4.160 trillion realized for the same period in 2011.

In furtherance of its commitment to the development of the educational sector, the FIRS collected N183.9 billion Education Tax (EDT) as at the end of November and remitted same to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TetFund). The amount represents two percent of accrual of EDT deductable from company’s profits operating in the country.

The collections for the 11-month period showed an increase of N55.9 billion over total collection of N128 billion in 2011 FIRS, which has a statutory responsibilities to assess, collect and account for revenue, had since 1994 when TetFund was established remitted more than N591 billion to the Fund.

The huge contributions to reposition the educational sector explain the reason behind the TetFund award of excellent and due diligent to the Service recently in Lagos.

The Acting Executive Chairman of FIRS, Alhaji Kabir Mashi, who spoke at the occasion when the remittance was made, gave the assurance of the Service’s determination to ensure improved collection of Education Tax (EDT) in the years ahead.

Analysts of public governance are of the view that if other entities, especially those charged with the responsibility of collecting revenues for government, adopt the FIRS’ strategy in giving to the society in areas of critical national needs, poverty and other socio-economic challenges confronting most ordinary Nigerians would be gradually be giving way for their improved well-being.

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