The Civil Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) today inaugurated the Lagos state chapter of the Tax Justice and Governance Platform at the Ekiti Syndicate room of Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja.
The event, attended by various stakeholders from the local government level to the federal level, centered on issues of taxes and how the people and the government can both discharge their duties of paying fair taxes and the judicious use of the taxes respectively.
Speaking at the event, the representative of the Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, Lagos, Wale Musa, made it known that tax evasion and avoidance is a global phenomenon as naturally, nobody wants to pay tax.
“Nobody wants to pay tax. It is a natural occurrence and it happens the world over. Despite the efforts of the Lagos state government to make the payment of tax easier, people still do not want to pay taxes and such people end up in the hands of fraudsters as they try to beat or manipulate the system.
Musa went further, “Payment of tax is very important as what affects the people in government also affect those not in governments. People should see the payment of tax as a social contract which will enable government to carry out its part of the bargain.”
Musa also used the opportunity to shed light on the difference between tax and levies/rates while explaining the concept of multiple taxations.
He said, “Tax is compulsory while rates are optional and you only pay for benefits or services enjoyed. The only tax that the Lagos state collects is the Personal Income Tax while others are levies and rates collected by various local governments and local council development areas in the state.”
“When people talk about multiple taxations, they just confuse things. In Lagos state for example, if you own a shop, you are to pay a rate on the shop. If in the same shop, you sell liquor, you are also to pay for the liquor license. But if you own neither of the two, then you don’t pay anything. That is where people get confused.”
The representative of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Adebayo, also shed some light on the reason why people avoid paying tax and the role of the FIRS.
“If people do not believe in the integrity of the system, nothing can be done to make them pay their taxes. That should be the first thing that comes to mind. People should trust the integrity of the system. They need to be sure that the taxes paid will be judiciously used. The mission of the FIRS is to partner with stakeholders for the purpose of national development. One of the tripods of the tax system is the tax policy. The tax policy talks about the direction the government wants to go for the fiscal year and the FIRS is at the forefront of that,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Coordinator of The Department for International Development, DFID, Shina Fagbenro, commended CISLAC for the initiative while urging the people to desist from tax evasion.
He said, “I want to congratulate CISLAC for this initiative and despite my busy schedule, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be at this type of gathering. The object of development is the people as any project embarked upon by any government that does not have the good of the people in it is negative.”
“Most of us know that the entire stability of Civil Society Organisations is predicated on the government and its people. The essence of the Tax Justice and Governance Platform is to ensure a fair relationship between the government and the people that employ them. People also have the responsibility of paying their taxes. You can never achieve balance, economic growth and political stability if the contract between the government and the people is breached.”
Fagbenro concluded by citing multiple taxation and complexity in the collection of taxes as the reason why people shy away from paying their taxes.
He said, “Make something complex and people will find alternative ways of making it easier for themselves.”