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Reps Queries FIRS over Failure to Refund N7.5 billion Multiple Taxation

Ayodele Afolabi,  Abuja

The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on the Accounting Procedures of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has questioned the decision of the agency to withhold tax refund due to some companies who were victims of multiple taxation even though the sum of N7.5billion was approved and released by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation(OAGF).

The Committee Chairman, Hon. Michael Enyom wondered why the FIRS would request and received the said amount only to sideline some companies who should have benefited from the refund.

Following the disclosure,  Enyom  requested for  some documents from the agency which include: List of tax waivers and its benefitiaries, list of all taxable entities from 2007 till date; evidence of bank deduction from source from 2010 till date; details of outstanding payment by NNPC and other companies and explanations as to why withholding taxes were not returned as provided for in the nation’s statute book.

He said: “In the case of tax refund, the N7.5billion released on 19th December,2014, report arising from the committee’s investigation reveals that some of the said approved cases were not implemented as monies received were not paid to all those who were listed in the request”.

Chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Babatunde Fowler said not all the monies were paid to those who made the request because they were criteria used for consideration and payment in other to avoid paying an erring company.

He said he would have to look into the matter to see what exactly happened, adding that what happened came from the position of FIRS trusting the returns made to it by companies and promised that such would not be allowed to happen again as the service will ensure that it knows exactly how much companies generate to determine how much of it is deducted as tax.

“There’s an ongoing internal re-organisation focusing on staff training and retraining. We are also deploying a system where all outstanding taxes owed by companies are recalled using automated platform. Right now many companies on the basis of that are doing self assessment and have promised to remit all outstanding Value Added Tax (VAT) owed for a couple of months.

“One of the key things we did to ramp up the revenue base when I was in Lagos was to do a comprehensive audit, and I believe if we apply the same method, we will achieve the same result and even more. I know that those I met on ground did their best to enhance the process and we are currently building on what they put on ground”, he said.

On NNPC non-compliance with the issue of tax return, the FIRS boss tied all unresolved matters to the conclusion of all ongoing audit exercises.

He said: “On the taxable profits of companies, I cannot give any specific information regarding the amount until the audit report for last year is ready for assessment”.

On that basis, the committee summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum Dr. Ibe Kachikwu to appear before it at its next week sitting.

On why companies were involved in oil trading businesses in the country for over a decade without paying taxes, the FIRS told the Committee that the information regarding that could only be gotten from the Customs Service which handles import and export duty collection.

Mr. Fowler told the lawmakers that his agency was never part of the decision to grant tax waivers to companies doing business in Nigeria.

Asked the question regarding indiscriminate granting of waiver which is partly responsible for the present cash crunch threatening to ground economic growth in Nigeria, Mr.  DB Oruagu who is a Deputy Superintendent of Customs told the committee that the service only acted on a Presidential directive to waive taxes on petroleum products.

“Based on the mandate given to Customs to scrutinise all import making entries into Nigeria, and as far as Customs is concerned, all petroleum products imported into this country is duty free. We do not have authorization to collect duty on them”, he said.

He maintained that it’s Presidential directive which was communicated via a memo, which he could not present before the committee upon request.

Chairman of the committee therefore ruled that copies of the said Presidential directive be made available to the committee before Friday this week.

The committee also mandated the FIRS to initiate an audit of all the airlines and report back to it in 2 weeks.

Some of the international airlines present at the hearing as British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa,South African Airline and Emirate Airline while its domestic counterpart include Arik Air,Dana Air and Bellview airlines.




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