A 2015 Paying Taxes Report study, jointly authored by international professional services brands of firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and the World Bank shows that out of the 189 countries on ease of paying taxes ranking, Nigeria ranks 170. In a bid to improve its performance on that ranking, the federal tax collection agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has launched a digitization drive of tax payments in the country.
Experts have identified the numerous benefits of paying taxes through electronic channels, some of which include ease of registration, assessment, compliance monitoring, compliance enforcement, taxpayers’ awareness, and dispute resolution.
Besides the foregoing, the agency also seeks to block revenue leakages and ultimately revolutionize revenue generation for Nigeria. Overall, there is a mounting need to improve the country’s tax administration.
This, among many other issues, was discussed at the recently concluded tax sensitization program themed, ‘Sustainable Tax Management: Exploring Digital Remittance’, in collaboration with Africa’s leading integrated payments and digital commerce company, Interswitch.
The program was organized to bring to the fore taxpayers the changing face of tax remittance in Nigeria, using new technologies and easing the process of tax payment, which the agency recognized as a way of expanding the tax net and improving compliance with international best practices.
At the event, it was noted that there is a correlation between a complex tax administration and taxpayers’ inclination for evasion. However, to simplify the process, FIRS, in partnership with Interswitch has taken the message to everyday taxpayers across the nation.
Taxpayers and stakeholders across the revenue service chain were treated to demo sessions on the TaxPro-Max e-filing platform that was deployed fully in 2021. The platform was designed to enable taxpayers easily file returns on various taxes such as Income Tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), etc., and receive a credit of withholding tax, among other tax-related businesses.
According to the Assistant Director, Taxpayer Service Department, FIRS, Manasseh Otega, the system had started bearing fruits, as there was an increasing number of Nigerians joining the platform and paying their taxes conveniently. He noted that the number of users on the platform had, within a three-month period jumped from less than 400,000 users to over 600,000 users and still counting.
In its journey to improve its tax collection services through digitization, the FIRS has worked alongside Interswitch, integrating its Collections Solution, Paydirect, with its TaxPro-Max digital platform. Paydirect, complements the already existing system by enabling the agency, and other government agencies and corporate organizations to collect and monitor revenue across various channels such as banks, Point of Sales (PoS) terminals, Internet banking, and the Quickteller (web, mobile, ATM, and USSD) platform in a transparent way.
The solution also improves taxpayers’ experience on the digital platform, boosts efficiency, and aids dispute resolution, while supporting the growth of the government’s revenue collection, as explained by the Group Head, Government, Interswitch, Osasere Atohengbe.
Atohengbe, said that Interswitch recognized the importance of tax collection, as it was necessary for the improvement of “infrastructural development”. He said, “Not only is it important to pay taxes to improve infrastructural development, but the system of tax payment also needs to be addressed to ensure that its collection is sustainable, seamless, transparent, and effective.”
As a foremost player in the payment ecosystem in Africa, Interswitch, Atohengbe added, was keen on supporting the efforts of the FIRS to improve its digitization efforts, as it is aimed at boosting the adoption of digital tax remittance among Nigerians.
The government tax management agency, at the sensitization program, admitted that Nigeria still had a long way to go to catch up with countries in the global space in the adoption of digital tax remittances and in the attainment of a healthier tax-to-GDP ratio, which remains one of the lowest in the world at 8 percent.
Globally, the average tax-to-GDP ratio ranges between 15 percent to 40 percent, and Nigeria’s poor performance is indicative of a need to adopt digital systems to improve tax collection and improve the trust of taxpayers in the remittance process, this was stated by the Associate Director, PwC, Emeka Chime during the event.
Otega assured that the FIRS alongside its key technology partner, Interswitch, would continue to communicate the importance of tax payment to Nigerians while improving its systems to make tax payment easier and secure.
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