During a plenary on 23 March 2022, a Bill for an Act to Establish the National Inspector-General for Tax Crimes Commission (National Tax Crimes Commission) was presented for second reading at the upper chamber of the National Assembly (the Senate).
The Bill which seeks to enhance Nigeria's revenue generation system through the establishment of a National Tax Crimes Commission, has now scaled second reading and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance for further deliberation and report.
The Bill was initially introduced to the Senate on 8 March 2022 for first reading. The Bill seeks to establish the National Tax Crimes Commission to address revenue leakages emanating from non-payment and underpayment of taxes, irregularities in the assessment, reporting and remittance of taxes; to prevent and combat tax-related crimes; to plug all leakages in the tax administration system; and to ensure the protection of taxpayers' rights.
According to the sponsor of the Bill, it is intended that the National Tax Crimes Commission will report to the National Assembly and not the Ministry of Finance as in the case of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). He also stated that the National Tax Crimes Commission will serve as an external examiner and a scrutiniser for checks and balances in tax administration in Nigeria and stated the objectives of the Bill to include the following:
- establish the National Tax Crimes Commission to address violation of tax laws and ensure effective sanctions apply in practice;
- provide the most effective approach to address tax crimes using a wide variety of strategies to encourage compliance and effectively respond to the different attitudes of taxpayers in complying with their obligations;
- ensure that laws related to tax crimes are effective in practice by providing a strategy for enforcing the law;
- complement the FIRS in ensuring compliance with payment of tax;
- develop a national tax policy for tracking tax defaulters;
- develop a tax compliance strategy;
- provide an efficient and effective mechanism in administering the Nigerian tax system;
- protect taxpayer's right by serving as the tax ombudsman;
- educate the citizens on tax matters;
- collaborate with relevant stakeholders to shore up payment of taxes and proper remittance to the federation account;
- provide a transparent platform on all matters relating to tax;
- provide sustainable finance and revenue for the government;
- review and address complaints by tax payers regarding service procedures, administrative matters or matters arising from the application of the Tax Acts.
Since the Bill has scaled second reading at the Senate, the next step will be to await the report of the Senate Committee on Finance and possibly a public hearing on the Bill.
While the Bill may be well intentioned, it is obvious, that many of the proposed functions of the National Tax Crimes Commission are already covered by the FIRS. While, it may be argued that the establishment of a National Tax Crimes Commission or a similar agency is not a strange practice around the world, given the peculiarity of Nigeria and the existence of the FIRS, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit as well as the various Tax Appeal Tribunals across the country, the Commission may just be a duplication of the duties of all these bodies in addition to the fact that it may create another layer of regulation without addressing the gaps if any with the current structure and laws covering investigation and prosecution of tax crimes in Nigeria. As this is a very important area of legislation, Andersen will continue to monitor the legislative process and if a public hearing is scheduled, we will attend and pass across our views on the proposed Commission. We will provide additional details and updates on further developments regarding the Bill.
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