How digital technology enhances tax collection in Kwara
One area the Kwara State government has designed to cushion the effect of a drastic fall in its monthly allocations from the Federation Account is the establishment of a virile revenue collection body, Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS).
The KWIRS has in about one year of its existence collected through an efficient Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) mechanism twice the amount of money generated by the defunct body, Board of Internal Generated Revenue.
Impressed by the stunning results being churned out on monthly basis by the new body, the chairmen of the existing 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state has some seven months ago handed over to the KWIRS the contract of collection of all legally designed areas of taxes points in their respective councils. The results has been an incredible return of about N200 million in all the councils within the months. This is against the same amount of IGR collected in all the councils for 12 calendar months.
The Executive Chairman of the KWIRS, Dr. Muritala Awodun said the revenue collection body did not introduce new taxes but simply blocked the noticeable conduit pipes and imposed the payment of all forms of taxes electronically.
With the acronym of PRESS, Awodun said the revenue collection body has all the residents of the state as its target as it will continue to use the most acceptable and conventional methods to accomplish its tasks.
‘P’ he explained, stands for Persuasion, whereby, the body has a burden to explain to all potential tax-payers that the old order of tax payment and collection in the state has been replaced with more pragmatic methods.
He added: “we are out to serve the people in such areas as education, and environment. In fact, we discovered there are people still going to school without sandals, bags or even books. All these gaps could only be bridged via viable taxes.”
As regards letter ‘R’, the Chairman said it represents dutiful recruitment of major stakeholders like journalists, traditional rulers and religious leaders to explain to the payers the importance of taxation to socio, political and economic growth of any society including Kwara, while ‘E’ stands for Eliciting and Energising team commitments.
According to him, the management uses the last Saturday of every month to do appraisals of the missions of all the members of staff and management of the KWIRS. He believed that the development would help the categories of workers to sustain the visions of the organisation.
The double ‘S’ he said represent systemic reporting of all the major activities of the KWIRS, adding, “every week and every month, we want to know the level of our performances through performance evaluation scheme.”
Speaking on the core values of the establishment, Awodun disclosed how the concept is wielded around the word ‘SHIRT’ representing; Service, Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility and Trust.
He noted: “anyone who stains the SHIRT, will have to wash it, but if the stain is indelible, then the person will have to go. We have new people doing the collection of taxes just as we drive revenue collection in the state with ICT. These steps have assisted us to reduce and probably eliminate leakages. Come the year 2017, we shall put our efficacy to a true test. By the years 2018 and 2019 we intend to sustain the tempo of collection until after the general elections.
At present, the KWIRS has surpassed the level of persuasion to that of effecting payment through the level of assessment, collection and enforcement. The development has led to the constitution of Tax Payers Advocacy Desk to constantly review relationship between the tax payers and tax collectors.
Besides, the organisation has appointed Dr. Isaac Gbenle as its Director of Enforcement, Legal and Monitoring unit towards a drastic reduction in cases of taxes evasion.
The unit has the mandate to comb the 16 LGAs of the state for enforcement of tax payment, with warnings that defaulters risked various categories of penalties including imprisonment.
According to Gbenle, “for the growth and provision of social services, security, good health system, the services is calling on all tax payers to fulfil their obligations to the state.” In fact, the enforcement activities across the state designed by the Enforcement, Legal and Monitoring directorates had begun since last Tuesday.
The areas of coverage of the enforcement unit will include Road Taxes Enforcement, property and Tenement Enforcement and Enforcement on Corporate Organisation.
He added, “the KWIRS has put all necessary machinery in place to enforce our tax policies. We therefore warn that failure to comply with the tax regulations will be met with necessary prosecution.”
Already, the successes and if any the failures recorded via the taxation policies are eliciting varying degrees of reactions among the residents of the state.
According to a socio critic based in Ilorin, Alhaji Abdulkarim Olola-Kasum, the introduction of taxes in the face of alleged high infrastructural decay in the state is suicidal.
Olola-Kasum in a chat with The Guardian in Ilorin said, “all over the world whether ancient or modern, the governments would ordinarily fix the roads, supply pipe borne water, free health policies and so on as incentives that give tacit supports to the need for the taxation.
“But in the case of Kwara, the government is not responding to the infrastructural needs of the people. It is instead asking the people to pay taxes.”
In the same vein, a former Leader of the state’s House of Assembly, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo said in a more advanced democratic countries of the world, “the sudden introduction of taxes could pitch the component state introducing the taxes against the residents under some legal fireworks.”
But Dr. Muideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Kwara, Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed, disagreed with views of Olola-Kasum and Oyedepo over the taxation policies.
According to Akorede, “the state is transparent enough declaring its assets to the public on monthly basis including all the accruable taxes. Already, the IGR drive through the taxes has, unlike many states of the federation, made the Kwara state government not a debtor to any civil servant under its employment.
“Besides, the recently commissioned asphalt plant by the Governor and corresponding fixation of some bad portion of roads in the state are some parts of what the money is being used for. Therefore, the comments of the duo of Olola-Kasum and Oyedepo were probably made in ignorance. We need to look inward under this global economic recession if we must survive as a nation, we must not shove aside the importance of taxation.”
Already, Awodun and his team had visited some selected public primary schools across the three geo-political belts in the state where sensitization slogan of ‘Pay Your Tax, Play Your Role’ was imparted in the pupils. Besides, embossed souvenirs, school bags, uniforms and pairs of sandal of various sizes were freely distributed to the pupils.
One unique area that the KWIRS has won the hearts of many residents of the state is in giving favourable tax concession rates to indigenous infant industries. Awodun however quickly explained that the foreign investors equally have “bumper concessions” that would enable them to churn out the much needed profits if they made the state the base for their business concerns.
Despite all these efforts by the KWIRS, it will be important to say that since many of the present generation of residents in the state are unfamiliar with the payment of taxes, one may be tempted to align with the belief of Awodun to say that, “with more persuasion,” the IGR of the state would continue to blossom through taxation.
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