The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria, comprising the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, among others, has expressed its opposition to any attempts by the Federal Government and other tiers of government to introduce new taxes or levies.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Budget, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had on Monday said the ministry “is closely studying” the possibility of introducing new taxes, tariffs and levies as part of measures to shore up government revenue.
But the OPSN said the introduction of new taxes or levies by the federal, state and local governments would lead to an upsurge in the country’s unemployment rate with its attendant socio-economic consequences as it could trigger job losses and companies’ closure.
The presidents of the OPSN, in a press address on Tuesday on the state of the Nigerian economy and a call for urgent action, commended the various efforts by the government at all levels to return the economy to the path of consistent growth.
We oppose attempts to further burden organised businesses with new taxes – OPS
In the address, which was delivered by the group’s Chairman, Mr Taiwo Adeniyi, the OPSN said, “While the pressure on revenue continues in the short term, we vehemently oppose any attempt to further burden organised businesses in the guise of new taxes or levies at the three tiers of government.
“Doing so will be counterproductive as this could further stifle the already burdened businesses, most of whom currently operate at less than 50 per cent capacity utilisation. It will also further lead to an upsurge in the unemployment rate with its attendant socio-economic consequences.”
The group called on the National Assembly not to accommodate or insert provisions that could further burden organised businesses into bills presented to it.
It said, “We wish to specifically draw the attention of the National Assembly to the ‘Establishment of the Tertiary Hospital Development Fund Bill 2021’, which among other things, seek to impose a one per cent tax on businesses. Organised businesses are currently providing healthcare services for the staff through in-house hospitals, HMO providers or direct billing.
Tertiary hospital fund bill an over-kill for OPS – Private sector
“It is unreasonable and will be an over-kill to still saddle the same organisations with the task of contributing to infrastructural development in the healthcare sector. Businesses are currently paying various percentages of their revenue to the NSITF, ITF, PenCom and other government agencies.”
On the Customs bill, currently undergoing public hearing at the National Assembly, the OPSN said NECA and other arms of the group had sent position papers, with their representatives are also attending the public hearing to make the presentation.
The group raised concerns over Clause 25 (advanced ruling) of the bill, saying, “This provision acknowledges an advance ruling in the Customs Framework in Nigeria. However, the application procedure for advance ruling would be done for a fee.
“Ruling to be delivered within 150 days and lasts within the fiscal year of issue and can be revoked upon reasonable notice. This means that businesses would incur fees for rulings and the rulings will be valid for one year and must be renewed yearly.”
The OPSN recommended that ruling should be valid for five years, saying, “In the worst-case scenario, the service can adopt the European Union Binding Tariff Information procedure, which is valid for three years.”
It said, “We noted that the Amendment Bill seeks to extend of recovery of unpaid duties from one year to seven years. Customs debt cannot be collected after seven years. However, this provision may be set aside in the event of a criminal allegation. This implies that a business can be exposed to unpaid customs and excise duties for a period of seven years and beyond seven years in the case of a criminal offence.
“We recommended that the provisions in the Customs and Excise Management Act 2004 should be retained, which is one year.”
The organised private sector urged the government to jettison the idea of reintroducing the excise duty on carbonated drinks.
It noted that in 2009 during the global financial crisis, excise duties on carbonated drinks were suspended to aid the sustainability of businesses.
“However, we are concerned that the Federal Government recently made pronouncements on reintroducing the excise duty on this class of products,” it said, adding that the economic situation that necessitated its suspension in 2009 had not abated.”
“Globally, at a time when governments continue to provide incentives for industries to speed up recovery from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating costs, Nigeria cannot afford to be doing the exact opposite as manufacturers, across all product segments, need a respite, especially in the light of the unprecedented increase in production and operating costs.”
Proposed taxed ill-timed, says MAN Council member
Meanwhile, an Executive Committee member of MAN Council, Ibrahim Usman, said the proposed increased in taxes and tariffs was ill-timed, adding the Federal Government should rather cut down cost of governance instead if imposing more burden on companies.
He said, “Times are hard, it is only when people have managed that they can pay taxes, now, when you look at higher tariffs, we are not even getting what it is for, is it for electricity? Is it for water? Is it for telephones?”
On his part, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Kingsley Moghalu, said that there was no need to introduce more taxes as it may do nothing to revive the economy.
In an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, the Presidential Aspirant of the African Democratic Congress said if elected into office in 2023, he will engage other revenue-generating mechanisms that will not burden Nigerians who are already paying taxes.
The Director-General, MAN, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, who said the move was ill-advised, said manufacturers would be the worst-hit if implemented.
He said, “As Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, she is aware of the possible grave consequences of over taxation and excessive taxation in an economy that is just recovering from major setbacks.
“It goes without saying that manufacturing would be worse hit if such an ominous proposition becomes manifest in the sector. The sector is already groaning under multiple taxation from the three tiers of government and has been quite anxious about the imminent ill-advised re-introduction of excise, as well as steep increase in the rate of excise on some products, including carbonated and non-alcoholic drinks and tobacco products.”
“Manufacturing businesses are yet to fully stabilise from the debilitating disruptive effect of COVID-19 pandemic and the non-accessibility of the so-called relief funds from government is well documented.”
He added, “What could be within reasonable contemplation should be widening the tax net to capture the largely untaxed endeavours that ought to have been within the tax bracket. I would want to believe that what the minister was referring to is that the net will be expanded to capture those and not that legitimate and diligent taxpayers would be made to pay more or that additional taxes would be levied upon them. That will be counterproductive and the envisaged additional revenue may not be realised. Instead, we may start to witness dwindling profitability, higher rate of business failure and predisposition to tax evasion. This is not to mention the disincentive to local and foreign investment.
‘The tendency is to heed the advice from the World Bank and the like for more taxation in developing economies. But we have not considered that this has not led to appreciable growth in their economies. There is need for wisdom in gauging the times we are in and assessing the possible boomerang effects on our beleaguered socio-economic environment. With low and worsening disposable income, heightening insecurity and anxiety, caution is the word.”
Finance minister, RMAFC disagree over revenue monitoring
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Muhammad Nami; and Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Elias Mbam, on Tuesday, disagreed over powers to collect and monitor revenues accruing to the Federation Account and the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The Federal Government officials disagreed at the public hearing on the 2021 Finance Bill organised by the Senate Committee on Finance in Abuja.
Chairman of the RMAFC, in his submissions, faulted Section 68(2) of the Finance Bill which proposed that the FIRS get exclusive powers of revenue collection, monitoring and enforcement , while Ahmed, Nami and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, noted that the legislation did not threaten the functions of the RMAFC.
Section 68(2) of the bill states that the FIRS is the primary agency in charge of administration, assessment, collection, accounting and enforcement of taxes.
Mbam, however, argued that while there was no objection to FIRS being the primary agency responsible for assessment , collection and accounting, the Service should not be granted the exclusive power of enforcement.
The FIRS boss, however, faulted the claim, stating that RMAFC’s mandate to monitor revenue was not exclusive as other relevant agencies or bodies like the Budget Office of the Federation, Office of Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance, Federation Account Allocation Committee, among others, have the concurrent mandate to monitor revenue.
Ahmed and Idris also backed the FIRS on the position taken by Nami.