FIRS: Task before Zaccheus, The Tax Collector
Zaccheus Adedeji has assumed office as the new helmsman and acting chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). He took over the Revenue House from Mohammed Nami.
Armed with a First-Class degree in Accounting from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Adedeji is a highly qualified and experienced individual, and his appointment as FIRS chairman is a significant development.
At resumption at the FIRS Head Office in Abuja, Adedeji was set to achieve an ambitious 18 per cent tax-to-GDP ratio within three years. This feat is expected to surpass Africa’s average tax-to-GDP ratio of 16.5 percent, which Nigeria even lags behind at 10.86 percent currently.
By doing so, Adedeji said he aims to reduce the nation’s reliance on borrowing and ensure financial sustainability.
At resumption at the Revenue House, he promised to go after tax defaulters in his resolve to aggressively drive compliance.
“For those who deviate from their tax obligations, rest assured, we will enforce our responsibilities judiciously”, he stated, adding that his administration will implement a robust enforcement model that effectively defers tax evaders while maintaining fairness and transparency in the processes of the service.
Adedeji further committed to simplifying Nigeria’s tax system, making it accessible and comprehensible, with a focus on facilitating voluntary tax payments and fostering a sense of civic responsibility.
According to him, quality data will be the cornerstone of the FIRS’ operations under his watch, enabling it to measure progress, make informed decisions, and maintain the highest standards of accountability.
“We recognize that data-driven strategies are essential to our success. I pledge to maintain an open-door policy, actively engaging with stakeholders to collaboratively construct a tax administration that we can all take pride in.
“Together, we will build an institution that serves as a beacon of excellence”, he said.
However, followers of events have said that Adedeji will face a number of challenges in his new role as the FIRS boss, responsible for collecting taxes from businesses and individuals in Nigeria. Many have mentioned the menace of tax evasion which is a major problem in the country.
Recall that President Tinubu had directed the outgoing FIRS Chairman, Muhammad Nami, to proceed on a three-month pre-retirement leave as provisioned by Public Service Rule (PSR) 120243, with immediate effect, leading to his eventual retirement from service on December 8, 2023.
By these directives of the President, the new appointment took immediate effect. A statement by the Presidential Spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, said that Zacch Adedeji’s appointment is for 90 days before his subsequent confirmation as the substantive Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service for a term of four years in the first instance.
He most recently served the nation as the Special Adviser to the President on Revenue, following meritorious service terms as the Oyo State Commissioner of Finance and as the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, National Sugar Development Council (NSDC).
Mr. Nami had during the tenure of his leadership, elevated the workings of the service standards, paving the way for the FIRS future endeavours. Mr. Nami’s commitment to excellence had set a remarkable precedent for the FIRS activities.
During the ceremony at the Revenue House, the new boss acknowledged Nami and every member of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) family, spanning from Coordinating Directors to all Senior Managers, for their unwavering dedication to the vital mission which has contributed to propelling the nation’s economic engine.
He noted that it was their collective effort and commitment that formed the bedrock of FIRS success and drive.
“I firmly believe in the wisdom encapsulated in the statement, ‘Revenue growth is the lifeblood of a nation’s economy, providing the means to fulfill essential duties to its citizens.’ Indeed, these words captured the core principle that will guide the service to navigate the challenging terrain ahead, ensuring that nation thrives and fulfills its obligations to its citizens.”
The country is confronting a pressing revenue crisis with a staggering 96 per cent of government revenue being funneled into servicing our debts. This stark reality necessitates a swift and resolute action on the part of the officials at the FIRS with Mr. Adedeji at the helm, and he must act decisively to reverse this concerning trend without delay.
In the pursuit of a brighter fiscal future, the FIRS must be determined to align itself with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms Committee. This collaboration will enable the service to shape a prosperous fiscal landscape that empowers the nation’s growth and development.
At the Revenue House, the Chief tax collector assured that the FIRS under him is committed to placing innovation, technology and fresh ideas at the forefront of its operations.
“This strategic focus will empower us to enhance efficiency, fortify against revenue leaks, and bolster coordination and accountability within our organization.
“Our overarching goal is to nurture voluntary tax compliance by establishing a modern, dependable tax system that garners the trust and admiration of all stakeholders. Through this, we hope to create an environment where taxpayers willingly fulfill their civic duties”, he said.
However, the Acting FIRS Chairman has this to say for those who deviate from their tax obligations: “Rest assured, we will enforce our responsibilities judiciously. We will implement a robust enforcement model that effectively deters tax evaders while maintaining fairness and transparency in our processes.
“A fundamental aspect of our mission is to elucidate to taxpayers why their civic duty matters. We are committed to simplifying our tax system, making it accessible and comprehensible, thereby facilitating voluntary tax payments and fostering a sense of civic responsibility.
“Quality data will be the cornerstone of our operations, enabling us to measure our progress, make informed decisions, and maintain the highest standards of accountability.
“We recognize that data-driven strategies are essential to our success. I pledge to maintain an open-door policy, actively engaging with stakeholders to collaboratively construct a tax administration that we can all take pride in. Together, we will build an institution that serves as a beacon of excellence.”
Adding: “Our aspiration is audacious – to surpass Africa’s average tax-to-GDP ratio of 16.5 per cent and achieve an impressive 18 per cent within three years. By doing so, we aim to reduce our nation’s reliance on borrowing and ensure financial sustainability.
“The principles of integrity, confidentiality, professionalism, and fairness are non-negotiable in our service to the nation. Upholding these values will guide our actions and interactions as we work tirelessly to fulfill our mission.”
The new Chief tax boss must emphasize unwavering commitment to the welfare of the staff at the FIRS by putting in place, a reward system for hard work. He must ensure that dedication to duty does not go unnoticed so that together, the service as a united team, work tirelessly to secure the prosperity of the nation and the well-being of its citizens.
But in achieving the pivotal cause, Adedeji will need to work closely with the government and businesses to develop new strategies for improving tax compliance. He will also need to address the concerns of taxpayers about the FIRS’s tax collection methods. Only by so doing will he overcome the myriad of challenges and achieve remarkable success.
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