States and local government councils in Nigeria are now expected to device better ways of collecting revenue to foot their development projects other than terrorising citizens on federal roads within their spheres of influence.
The Federal Ministry of Transportation has declared that collection of revenue on the federal highways by state and local government agents is illegal.
It is therefore imperative for theses two tiers of government and tax authorities to revisit their approach to enforcing compliance and discouraging tax evasion given the dire need to surge dwindling revenue through taxation.
Analysts say tax officials need complete attitudinal change of the perception that some taxpayers are ‘’untouchable’’ by progressively implementing measures that make tax evasion unattractive.
This, they argued, may include strict enforcement of the existing provisions of the law on imposition of penalties. It may also involve amending the tax laws to ensure that certain insufficient punitive penalties are removed and replaced by more punitive ones.
One of the reasons for the low tax revenue to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is the fact that the tax revenue agencies do not fully enforce the powers granted to them within the ambits of the law. As such, they rarely scrutinize defaulting taxpayers especially those that are supposedly labelled as ‘’untouchable’’.
Although, a couple of years back, the tax authorities took action by apprehending top management staff of some companies who have defaulted in paying taxes due. They also ordered out staff of the defaulting companies and shut down their offices.
These actions served as a deterrent to other taxpayers and encouraged voluntary compliance. However, few years down the line, there has been a negative change in the attitude of the tax authorities to enforcing compliance, especially in the areas of recovery of taxes, prompt rendition of tax returns and payment of tax assessed.
One would expect that violent compliance enforcement actions that was applied couple of years back will be embraced by successive managements of the tax agencies. However, it appears this is not the case.
In the mean time, Head of the ministry’s Press Unit, Mohammad Idris, who made the declaration in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State in Eastern Nigeria, while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, said road blocks mounted in the state by staff of the state’s Passenger Integrated Manifest Scheme (ASPIMS) for revenue collection runs counter to the law.
He has accordingly called on security agencies to clear federal highways of such revenue collectors who use the highways as revenue collection ground, pointing out that the activities of such revenue agents hinder smooth flow of traffic on the affected roads and disturb travelers from other states passing through the state.
According to Idris, ‘’the police and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) should not allow these agents to block the highways. This is because their operations on the highways are illegal and obstruct the movement of travelers across the country.
‘’The former Inspector General of Police told them that the action was wrong, illegal and so he banned it but unfortunately some states still do that. But it is wrong. They have been told not to operate on the highways. Nobody has the right to block the highway except in emergency situations by security agencies.’’