By Olasunkanmi Akoni
THE Lagos State Government has set up an enforcement team to flush out and arrest touts parading as tax agents in the state especially at the local government level.
Speaking at revenue enlightenment seminar organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, yesterday, in Alausa, Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Taxation, Mr. Ade Ipaye, said to effectively tackle these challenges, a Bill that would prescribe and regulate levies collected by local government councils had been presented before the state House of Assembly.
He expressed optimism that the Bill when pass into law would amongst other functions, schedule the levies that would be assessed and collected by duly authorised officers of the relevant local government.
According to him, â€œthe new law when in place will also address specifically the problem of double taxation in a way that the government would have a definite list chargeable at the local government level and we would be able to regulate the manner in which those charges are collected.
â€œSo the honourable members are working on it and am sure they are in the tail end of the process and in a matter of months if not days, we should have the law out and I think it would have a definite effect on the problem we are talking about,â€ he said.
Ipaye explained that everything would be treated within the ambit of the law, saying list of approved agents will be posted at the local councils so that what is not on the list would not be acceptable.
â€œThe amount to be paid, the time of payment, mode of payment, kind of identification and dresses that the revenue collectors would wear when they come to you, all would be made clear and we think that when all these are cleared, there would be no room for touts and illegality,â€ he said.
On his part, State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Prince Rotimi Agunsoye, in his keynote address said the seminar was necessary as it provided an enabling platform to educate the Chairmen of Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in the state and those who are in charge of collection of levies and taxes in local government to know exactly what they are supposed to collect, in order not to overburden the citizens.
Earlier, Guest Lecturer at the seminar, Mr. Abiola Sanni who spoke on the topic â€œIntroduction to Taxation and Allocation of Taxing Powers,â€ identified the absence of an established formal structure for tax administration at the local government level as the bane of illegal taxes and multiple levies.
Sanni, a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law of the University of Lagos, also blamed state governments in the country, saying withholding revenues due to the local government has led to financial desperation of the latter.
He also blamed the Federal Government, which according to him has failed to adequately fund its departments and agencies.
â€œNot only that, some states have even usurped the taxes assigned to the local government when the constitution requires them to delegate the administration of some states taxes to the local government. It is sad to note that a development levy of just N100 is being collected by the states. Without intending to play the devilâ€™s advocate, how then do we expect the local government to survive in this kind of stifling fiscal environment,â€ he stressed.