A COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT END OF A TWO-DAY STAKEHOLDERS FORUM ON PROGRESSIVE TAXATION IN LAGOS STATE
The Human Development Initiatives (HDI) in collaboration with Actionaid Nigeria with the support of Norad organized a 2-day Stakeholders’ Forum on Progressive Taxation in Lagos State. This event which held on the 18th and 19th of September, 2019 in a conference room at Starfire Hotel, GRA Ikeja Lagos, aimed at advocating for increased state government revenue through progressive and fair tax. The forum sort to improve the understanding of stakeholders on taxation in Lagos State particularly the progressive nature of the existing tax system in relation to tax justice, while identifying issues that affect voluntary tax compliance. The gathering was also an avenue to also drum for increase in the share of fund allocation and spending on critical social sectors especially public education, in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of all children particularly girls and the marginalised. Participants were drawn from Lagos Inland Revenue Service (LIRS), Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget (MEPB), Education Districts (1, 3 & 5), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Civil Society Organisations such as CSACEFA, Tax Justice Network, School-Based Management Committee (SBMC), Socio-Economic Right & Accountability Project (SERAP), Community Life Project (CLP), BudgIT, the private sector and media organisations.
At the end of the two-day stakeholders’ interactive sessions with LIRS and other tax experts on the above subject, the following are the issues/challenges identified:
1. Low tax compliance culture among the people of Lagos State.
2. The Personal Income Tax in Nigeria is not progressive enough at the current maximum tax rate.
3. The present tax system creates opportunities for multiple taxations, tax evasion, and avoidance, indiscriminate tax incentives without commensurate benefit to citizens.
4. Low justification and accountability for the tax so far collected.
5. The multiplicity of Laws presently regulating Tax.
6. There are communication gaps between the Lagos State Government and the public in relation to tax and other charges.
7. There is inadequate coverage of the informal sector in the current tax collection data which limits the revenue base of the state.
8. Insufficient public understanding/awareness of how tax payable in the State is calculated, hence affecting voluntary tax compliance especially in the informal sector.
9. Conflict between State Revenue Collection Agencies, State Board of Internal Revenue (SBIR) and the Local Government on Taxes, rates, and dues.
10. Discrepancies in the database of tax payers in Lagos State.
11. Difficulty and delay in accessing public document in Lagos State Government offices.
12. Weak political will to implement all the objectives/recommendations contained in the National Tax Policy.
13. Inadequate Monitoring and Evaluation component in the National Tax Policy.
14. The share of fund allocated to education is inadequate to address educational challenges in the Lagos State public schools.
15. Low participation of key stakeholders in the design of education budget in Lagos State.
16. Most newly built educational infrastructure are of poor quality despite the high cost.
In the light of the foregoing, the following recommendations were jointly made in no particular order:
1. The current maximum tax rate should be review upward to ensure a more progressive tax system.
2. There is a need to harmonize Taxes, Levies, and Dues to address the challenge of multiple taxations in Lagos.
3.The Lagos State Government should intensify awareness on Tax and other approved payments; decentralizing channel for awareness creation on Tax and other charges in Lagos State will help greatly.
4. There is a need for regular reviews of tax rates, levies, and dues to reflect prevailing economic realities.
5. The Lagos State Government should summon the political will to block all tax leakages, and adopt a more transparent and inclusive cost-benefit analysis to guide the process of granting tax incentives.
6. The Lagos State Government should intensify effort to automate payment channels for the convenience of tax payment.
7. Government needs to do more to codify/consolidate the existing tax laws.
8. The Lagos State Government should diversify and simplify mode of communication and calculation of tax payable for all especially those in the informal sector.
9. In accordance with Personal Income Tax Act and other relevant laws, the Lagos State Government should revitalize Local Government and Joint State Revenue Committees.
10. The Lagos State Government must take decisive steps to harmonize taxpayers’ database in Lagos State in collaboration with all existing enumeration agencies.
11. Lagos State should sign off to the Freedom of Information Act and Open Government Partnership to facilitate simplicity of and timeous response to citizens’ requests, and to further entrench the culture of transparency and accountability in Lagos State.
12. The Lagos State Government should strive to implement all the recommendations in the National Tax Policy.
13. There is a need to review the Monitoring and Evaluation component of the National Tax Policy for higher effectiveness.
14. The State Government should ensure that the M&E report is regular and timeous.
15. The Lagos State Government, as a matter of strategy should ensure that the share of budget allocated to and spent on public education is increased to at least 20% so that the impact of tax compliance is felt even by marginalized children.
16. The Lagos State Government should do more to encourage inclusive participation of all stakeholders in the design and prioritization of the education budget.
17. The Lagos State should revive a strict compliance with public procurement law and emphasis on value for money.
18. The Lagos State Government down to its MDAs should ensure inclusion of end-users in monitoring and evaluation of new education infrastructure.
This Communique is endorsed by all stakeholders represented.