ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) and Oxfam, both non-profit international organizations committed to poverty alleviation globally, have urged the federal and state governments to tackle poverty, corruption and tax evasion to enhance critical infrastructure for sustainable development of the country.
The NGOs, through the Financing for Development (F4D) research project just concluded in the country, specifically identified corruption, poverty and tax evasion as bane of the nation’s infrastructure development.
They observed clear linkages between the nations’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and taxation in terms of social infrastructure development and citizens’ well-being, noting that absence of policy framework on tax-deductible CSR initiatives could create avenues for tax evasion by corporate organization.
Similarly, AAN and Oxfam detected, through the research work, that promotion of micro, small and medium scale enterprises are critical strategy for addressing issue of unemployment in the country.
As a strategic step to ensure proper coordination of its pilot study on impact of budget on poverty reduction in some select states of the federation, the NGOs constituted the Strengthening Public Finance in Nigeria (STREPFIN) committee about three years ago.
Speaking on the research findings on the F4D which focused on CSR and tax matters and the earlier studies facilitated by the NGOs in Lagos recently, the STREPFIN committee chairman, Mr. David Nwachukwu, charged the tiers of government to formulate a comprehensive and detailed national policy framework in consultation with the private sector for proper accounting of CSR actions, sustainability of CSR related projects and blockage of tax leakages on account of CSR actions.
Nwachukwu, who was briefing journalists at the end of a 2-Day meeting between private sector companies, community stakeholders and STREPFIN steering committee on the report of the F4D project, recommended, based on the research findings, that CSR enabling policy should provide for professional bodies’ independent validation of CSR expenditure on project and programmes.
He explained that adopting the measure would promote transparency and accountability in the reporting of CSR action and prevent incidence of CSR-related tax evasion by corporate entities.
He said: “We call government at all levels to create industrial parks that will promote the establishment and competitive operation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) toward job creation, poverty reduction and national development.
“Government should strengthen the power of the Joint Tax Board (JTB) to enable them give full effect to that taxes and levies (approved list of collections) Laws of the Federation (LFN) 2004 and for such matters”, Nwachuckwu added.
In his opening remarks at the sensitization meeting, the AAN’s Country Director, Mrs. Ene Obi, observed that the government would not need to borrow money if the country had efficient internal revenue generation and collection systems.
Represented by the Director of Finance, Oluwole Elegbede, the Country Director suggested that if tax collection was done online, it would be easier to monitor and ensure prompt remittance of such payments to the appropriate agency.
Obi identified some of the problems of tax revenue as including, low tax compliance by individuals and private sector companies in the form of tax evasion, multiple taxes, levies, permits and fees, amongst others.
She specifically rued multiplicity of taxes as they discourage taxpayers and encourage them to seek ways of evading payment.
The AAN boss said: “The major responsibility of every government is to create enabling environment for business to thrive. If you have multiple-taxation; it discourages investment in your business environment.
“For instance, if people have choice of investment, some will see Ghana as best investment destination because government over there provide their businesses with required and basic infrastructural facilities such as power, rail, network of roads among others.
These are the basic requirements that Nigeria lack and positioned her as unattractive destination and business environment for some domestic and major foreign investors”, Obi stressed.