Senior Special Assistant on Taxation and Internal Revenue Generation to the Ogun State Governor, Mr Kunle Akinlade, in this interview explains how the state Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been able to raise the internal revenue profile of the state from N700 million to almost N4Billion within two years and efforts of Governor Ibikunle Amosun to reposition the state. Excerpts:
BY BEN AGANDE
On what is responsible for the huge rise in internal revenue profile of the state
I think we should give kudos to his Excellency for being able to put a team together, for being able to square pegs in square holes. I have a background in revenue generation; the chairman of the board of Internal Revenue is a Fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation; the other two SSA’s are accountants.
When we came on board, one of the things we looked at immediately was to invite all the stakeholders at the board of internal revenue; we looked at what was on ground. There are two ways to get revenue; one is generation and one is collection. We looked at the processes on ground, which were mostly manual in terms of revenue collection. We looked at all the tax stations, the infrastructure on ground, mobility and training.
Most of these people even had to be trained for about five years; we looked at the qualification of some of the staff on ground and discovered that people who studied English were handling jobs that a chattered accountant should be handling.
What we did first within the first five months was to restructure the board in terms of personnel and immediately we got that in place, we reshuffled the board totally, bringing those who are supposed to be in administration back into the offices to handle administrative processes, we moved accountants into the field, we set up a very viable enforcement team, we built up the Human Relations Unit; we increased publicity, in terms of enlightening the public.
What we met on ground was that because they were alienated, people were withdrawn; they did not want to hear about tax at all because of the way things were.
The governor mandated us to develop a society and a tax payer culture of voluntary compliance. so what we did was rather than go out there and run after tax payers, we actually engage tax payers in the process of collection, that was the first step and then in the first one year what we did was to carry out some sort of enumeration, get to know how many tax payers we have, how many of these tax payers are active, those that are not active, where they are and who they are.
Between 2011 and mid-2012, we saw significant changes, an upward shift in our revenue cap from about N700million to about N1.4 billion, and that gave us the confidence that at least we were doing something right. With that, we requested for the ministry, Civil Service Commission, to send more or to recruit more accountant because we needed professionals to come in and do the job.
Immediately we got that in place, we were able to interface with the complaints and set very realistic targets for our team to go out there, interface with the tax payers and let them see exactly what we are trying to achieve, get them involved as partners, let them understand that we are partners, that they are not debtors and whatever money they pay will be spent judiciously.
His Excellency from the very beginning started to make people know that he is there to rebuild the state and because people were seeing that the money being spent is being used, they could see the roads, they could see the projects all over the place and the compliance level increased and with that, it became easy for us to actually do our job and that is how we started.
How did you get tax payers to believe that the money would be judiciously utilised?
What we did first was to build confidence with tax payers. To build confidence, you have to get the man involved in the process of collection. For example we went through various associations in the state. People even thought it was impossible if we had to go through our associations but personally I had a different view.
I’ve always believed that once we get our associations involved, we will make progress because we had to look at the cost of collection on the part of the government, we had to look at the personnel we had to deploy if we are to run after people but when their associations are involved we’re looking at a hundred people with only one tax officer.
With one tax officer you will interface with the executives of the associations and they collate the names of their members. We agree on how much they want to pay, they do the collection and they remit to the bank. One tax officer’s job now is to make sure that money paid in is correct and to make sure that they receive their ETCC receipt for any payment which the association now gives tax payers.