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Account re-registration: Not for Nigeria-based taxpayers, says FIRS

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• I Didn’t Issue It, Says Finance Minister
It was confusion galore for many already burdened Nigerians yesterday, as they woke up to another demand on them to undergo another round of re-certification of their accounts with financial institutions to have their biometrics and business profiles captured for purposes of taxation. 

The new demand this time was by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Nigerian tax agency, even as a similar exercise had already taken place some four years ago by the financial sector regulator, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Some hours of harsh reactions from Nigerians over a directive for all account holders to go through the rigours of re-registering their personal details with banks, just a few years after doing same, sanity has finally prevailed and the federal government has backed down, apologised and changed its mind.

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Angry Nigerians had advised government to reverse the order and use details it got from BVN and National Identity number for registrations.

Tongues began to wag as many Nigerians started asking the motive of the new exercise, with many believing it was a prelude to the introduction of another fresh tax widows to the already over-taxed citizens.

The CBN has maintained dignified silence and preferred not to comment on the new policy, which has serious fiscal and monetary implications on the economy.

Several calls to the CBN authorities to clarify the new demand yesterday were not picked, nor returned till press time last night.   

But Mr. Yunusa Abdullahi Tanko, Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, said the notice was never issued by the ministry or the minister, but by the FIRS, which he noted had retracted the statement and even apologised to Nigerian and offered a clarification to the extent that the planned new rule does not include resident tax payers in Nigeria. 

Tanko said: “We didn’t issue the statement. There’s no way we can, therefore, go and be issuing any clarification on the issue. Moreover, the FIRS is an autonomous agency and has equally issued a clarification on the matter. 

“It would, therefore, amount to rascality if we go ahead and issue statements after the agency has already done.”

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The FIRS has indeed tendered an apology for the misleading statement, explaining that it was meant only for onshore taxpayers and not resident taxpayers that have been covered in the earlier CBN supervised Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise. 

In a retraction message by its Director of Communications, Dr. Abdullahi Ismaila, the FIRS promised to give more clarification on the vexed issue in the coming days.

It said in a tweet: “We apologise for the misleading tweets (now deleted) that went up yesterday, regarding the completion of self-certification forms by Reportable Persons.

“The message contained in the @firsNigeria Notice does not apply to everybody. FIRS will issue appropriate clarification shortly. 

“This is to clarify the publication for financial institutions account holders in Nigeria to complete the self-certification form, pursuant to the Income Tax (Common Reporting Standard) Regulations 2019, which is for the fulfillment of Automatic Exchange of Information Requirements,” the agency further appealed. 

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