Oba-elect of Ilara-Epe and former Chairman of Lagos Internal Revenue Service, Prince Olufolarin Ogunsanwo, has provided an insight into why people hardly pay taxes in Nigeria.
Speaking at the annual Summit of January 9 Collective (J9C) with the theme, “The Tax Debate: For Young Business to Grow; Established Firms to Survive “, Prince Ogunsanwo who was the guest speaker said more people will be willing to pay if the money realized were judiciously used.
Said he “what comes under periodic contest is the application or perceived misapplication of the extant provisions of the tax laws within the Nigerian context, vis-a-vis the limits of the rights and responsibilities of stakeholders on either side of the enforcement divide”
On the need to create more awareness to sensitize the taxpayers of their civic duties , he said; “When I was in charge in Lagos , I tried to arrange the tax forms in different languages so that people can pick the form and fill without much ado, but I think we need to do much more to create awareness.”
Speaking earlier during the presentation of his paper, Prince Ogunsanwo said small and medium scale SMEs, according to Bureau of Statistics accounted for 97% of productive unit of the economy in Nigeria.
He, however , maintains that the SMEs remains a critical sectors in economic development of any nation but double taxation in the first three years in Nigeria has always been a threat to the sustainability of the SMEs.
Ogunsanwo said that for the SMEs to thrive, there is need to create a favourable business and regulatory environment, while conscious efforts should be invested in improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria, so that Nigerian businesses can be competitive in the short term and sustainable in long term.
“The significance of contribution of SMEs to economic growth is seen more in the developed climes where their potentials have been successful harnessed. For instance, SMES accounted for about 20% of patents (a measure of innovation) , in biotechnology related fields In Europe in 2014. SMEs are also known to account for over 25% of businesses, 60-70% of employment, 55% of gross domestic product (GDP) and generate the lion’s share of new employment.” He said.
According to him, there are evidences to support the contributions of SMEs to economic development in many developing countries, adding “the Nigerian government tends to focus more on larger corporations, with foreign investment to the detriment of SMEs, whose activities are wrongly perceived to have insignificant impact on the economy. This perception has since been debunked by evidence from antecedents of OECD countries, suggesting that SMEs have a high prosperity to transform a country’s economy if a conducive environment is created for them to grow through appropriate regulations and tax policies”
The former taxman concluded “government should come up with uniform tax policies that will favour the development of SMEs while government should put into consideration the size of SMEs and these key words: multiple taxation, SMEs performance, SMEs mortality and economic growth when formulating tax policies “
Welcoming the guests, Vice Captain of J9C, Loye Amzat, the Publisher of the News of The People Magazine, said that J9C was a child of necessity which was birthed after the 2012 fuel protests across Nigeria.
He says the Group came together to serve as a catalyst for the improvement of the economy through its annual summit to set agenda for the policy makers in Nigeria.
Other discussants at the debate moderated by the Lagos former commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture Steve Ayorinde were Femi Awoyemi, founder of Proshare, Ayodele Subair, chairman LIRS represented by Igho Orienu, Vivian Ani, managing partner of Highnet Services and Henry Akwara FCA.
Faces at J9C Annual Lecture 2020 at Lagos Sheraton