By Emma Amaize
TAX is a certain amount of money you disburse to government so that it can pay for public services, but in Delta State, tax evasion (crime of not paying the full amount of tax that you should) has been the order of the day, over the years, thereby, depriving government of money to provide desirable public services.
The practice is so deeply entrenched that it has become a rite and attempt to change it is regarded as a taboo, but the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue strappingly imagines that it should no longer be business as usual for tax evaders.
And so, in partnership with the state government, the board, headed by Hon Joel-Onowakpo Thomas, June 9, organized the first stakeholders’ meeting for the various establishments and institutions to sensitize them on the tax law and their civic responsibilities.
While the meeting was on, workers were on strike over the up-to-the-minute tax regime introduced by the board, which saw their take-home pay uncommonly sliced. Indeed, workers in the different government departments are furious with the state government for the action. The board had earlier met with the union leaders to explain that it was not doing anything strange, except that it decided to apply the rule on all taxable incomes, which was the case before now in the state.
The executive chairman of the board, Hon. Thomas, who proved to be a penetrating marketer and administrator at the well-attended conference, said the revenue agency had engaged the services of tax professionals to work on behalf of the state government in the new reforms, saying, the consultants would go through the books of the different companies in a cordial atmosphere with their officials, and come up with the relevant taxes to be paid, based on the laws of the land.
His words, “They will sit with you and watch your organization to ensure that you comply with the tax law. We have had circumstances in which some companies deducted but did not remit. The board is soliciting your cooperation with the tax professionals, as it does not want to take advantage of the tax-paying companies and will not also want them to undermine the professionals”.
He said, in the past, multiple notices were issued in respect of taxes but the new partnership between the board and the companies was meant to address such matters, as the agency was committed to ensuring efficient tax generation that would lead to increased for the state.
According to him, “The Uduaghan government has done well to uplift the socio-economic development of the state and it, therefore, follows that with more funds, the government will be able to more”.
He asserted that the prevailing peace and security in the state, where one could relatively move freely in the state contrary to the situation, many years ago, micro-credit scheme, bridges, roads, street lights, free maternal care for pregnant women and children between the ages of 0-5 years, scholarship to students, Asaba International Passenger and Cargo Airport and other programmes of government could not be possible if there was no funds”.
Note of warning
Hon Thomas stated that much as he believed in due processes, sealing up of companies for tax avoidance would be the last option the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue would want to take, but he was quick add, “It is not a sign of weakness that we have not sealed offices, it is only if the companies failed to do what they have to do after we have sensitized them we will close down businesses”.
“As you pay you own staff and do your annual return every year, what we want you to do is to simply pay as our own revenue, we will visit the full weight of the law on defaulting companies by imposing the required penalties.
In the past, interests on penalties were waived, we cannot do it now and you know that sometimes, interest on penalties can run into millions of naira. We don’t want to visit the law on penalties, so we want companies to avoid falling into the trap of interest and penalty”, he asserted.
The revenue boss also spoke on non-remittance of Pay As You Earn, PAYE, by companies that have cross-border relationship with the state, especially organizations that have their workers residing and working in Delta state but with headquarters outside the state, saying it was easy to hide under the law to evade payment, but when Jesus was tempted, he told those who came to meet him that they should give Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what belongs to God.
A representative of Globestar Company complained of tax payers not getting receipt for payments made to the board, while a PHCN official said obtaining tax clearance certificates has remained a knotty problem for tax payers. A Daewoo Construction Company Official raised the issue of multiple demand notices and a union leader queried the legality of the added taxable incomes by the board, which prompted a strike action by workers, among others.
Hon Thomas took time to explain the e-process and e-receipts module of the board in its transactions and urged stakeholders to familiarize themselves with the various methods.