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‘Technology as panacea to tax challenges’’

By Gbenga Salau and Benjamin Alade
18 July 2016   |   3:15 am
If the country hopes to put an end to many of the challenges in its tax administration, it must be willing to deploy technology, the Executive Director, Systemspecs, Deremi Atanda, has said.
Deremi Atanda

Deremi Atanda

If the country hopes to put an end to many of the challenges in its tax administration, it must be willing to deploy technology, the Executive Director, Systemspecs, Deremi Atanda, has said.

According to him, there should be a social contract or social engagement between the government and its citizen, which technology has made easy for government to interact with its citizen, either corporate or individual.

He noted that the introduction of technology is the most single critical part of getting tax paid, but there is no law that supports it.

Today, the average Nigerian does not have a clear picture of what his or her responsibilities are. To make that easy, government can leverage it for enhanced generation.

Atanda, who spoke at the eighth Wole Soyinka Centre Media lecture Series, titled: “Tax education, national development and the seminal role of media”, said many people see tax as oppression because they are not simply educated. We can still use the tool to educate when it comes to tax.

When people are convinced rather than coerced, the issue of tax payment itself can be liberalised based on technology.

“You don’t need to leave the comfort of your home before you can make payment. There are many things about the payment space that talks about e-payment space, mobile payment amongst others. Government would do itself a great deal of good by leveraging technology.

“Considering the high cost of opening tax offices all over the country, Imagine the cost of doing all of that is converted to putting technology infrastructure in place, tax administration would have gone a long way,” he said.

Former editor of ThisDay Newspaper and publisher of Cable Newspaper Limited, Simon Kolawole, maintained that the present tax system is coercive and does not input the citizens’ buy-in.

“The tax administration in Nigeria must be one that is people friendly, a tool for relationship building between the citizens and government and not just a tool for revenue generation,” he said.

According to him, the tax process, at present, is a rape of the people, as the people do not pay voluntarily because they usually do not see reasons to do so.

He however, called on the media to push the ideology of sociology of taxation because it should be about a relationship between the state and the society, tasking the media to make government understand that.

On her part, Vice President of NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), Mrs. Enobong Akpabio stated that tax officials in Nigeria are usually rude, crude in the manner in which they carry out their duty, which is negatively affecting business. According to her, tax officers must understand that the key to paying and growing tax revenue in the prosperity of businesses.

She called on the government to not just always provide tax incentives to foreign investors but also to local investors, stating that avenue for redress at the local government is not there, which is killing small businesses. Akpabio pleaded with the media to hold government accountable on how it collect and uses the revenue from tax just as it should educate the people about issues of tax.

Also, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Emuesiri Agbeyi, noted that there is a lot to be done on issues of tax in Nigeria especially because the imbalance in what people pay as tax and the social benefits they get after wards.

Maintaining that two of the hallmarks of taxation are transparency and simplicity, Agbeyi said the media as a balancing act between the government and the people should ask where the taxes have gone to and whether politicians pay their tax. She also said that the tax laws should be make simpler for better understand and engagement by the citizens noting that the present one is written in archaic language.