Mr Babatunde Fowler, Chairman, Joint Tax Board (JTB) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), explains how the new tax identification number registration system, scheduled for launch tomorrow, will bring convenience to the taxpayer, boost tax compliance and revenue collection

Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Babatunde Fowler, addressing delegates at a high-level meeting on “International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices on Assets Return” convened by the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the weekend.

There is a plan by the Joint Tax Board (JTB), which you chair, to introduce a new Tax Identification Number (TIN) Registration system. What is this about?

We call it a new TIN Registration process and will be launched by the Vice President on 1 July. Before now, we have had people undergoing training on how to utilize this. And what this system basically does is to take information already in our system plus what we have in our national tax database. So once it is launched, we have to run it and have it come on the national database for the whole nation, both for companies and individuals. What this implies is that if you have a tax clearance in Kano State, for example, and you are coming to Lagos for the transaction, instead of the man in Lagos confirming your tax clearance documents that you brought from Kano, he only needs to click the button and everything shows live. That is what the system does.

The system brings innovation, convenience and transparency to tax authorities and taxpayers by enabling tax authorities efficiently manage their taxpayer base, while enabling taxpayers to view, retrieve and update their tax profiles at the comfort of their homes or offices.

The new JTB TIN will be universal throughout the country and can be used by taxpayers to pay for any tax type. This reduces the burden of having to register for multiple TIN numbers from different tax authorities and states, as it leverages on the biometrics we’ve got on BVN, from tax agencies, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). So it brings in all onto a common platform.

It also notifies the taxpayer through a robust and secure system-to-system integration.

What are the benefits to tax authorities?

Clearly, the benefit would be convenience and transparency. If you are resident in one state and you go to transact business in another state, say, quote for a contract, it is in the law that part of the criteria is to have a tax clearance certificate. Immediately, an officer in the ministry will check if the individual name or your company name and your tax data are clearly are available. On the other side, if you have underpaid, like you paid an N100, 000 in Ogun State and you want to buy a property in Lagos for N10 million, the man clicks the button and asks how you can afford an N10 million property in Lagos based on the income on which you paid a tax of N100,000. So basically, it is a situation that is open and provides the taxpayer and the tax administrator with the same knowledge.

So, it is not a matter of you trying to tell the tax official I pay adequate tax or for the tax official to demand inducement for tax clearance.

 How much trust can the taxpayer have in this new system and does it completely remove the need to physically visit tax offices?

You don’t have to because we do all these things online. Now when you talk about trust, basically what the system does is to keep all your tax payments. And that currently operates in Lagos, which is one of the few states where it operates. Any payment in Lagos State, for example, over the last five years or six years, is available at the click of a button. This is what we have done with this new system.

So even for some states that do not have the capacity of the financial muscle to do it, we have put it all together in one place. So, once you key into that system, you have the same benefit as the taxpayer.

 What are the features of the new registration process?

Let me say this about the features: You have a common platform where all taxpayers’ information resides, which is made available to all tax administrators across the country. It also being made available to government agencies where you have to transact business. So, those are the main features and basically, that is what it is there for and at the same time. Another added benefit is that it will certainly improve revenue generation. The new system is able to generate TIN automatically for newly registered cooperate taxpayers from CAC, verify TIN details and print TIN certificate, using the TIN Verification Portal, allows tax officials and taxpayers to initiate TIN registration from the comfort of their homes/offices and at their convenience and allows download via TIN mobile application available on Google Play Store and IOS.

In addition, the system is available 24/7 system all year round, has the ability to retrieve TIN via the use of the JTB USSD, helps resolve taxpayer issues faster by leveraging the robust helpdesk functionality and can find nearest tax office to the taxpayer, using the functionality provided in the TIN mobile application.

 What are the reasons for the adoption of this new registration process?

Well, the old system didn’t have any of these benefits.

 Is the new system for the FIRS or also for states?

Basically, it was founded through the Joint Tax Board, so it belongs to the federal and the state agencies, and we are going to make it available at no cost to other government agencies because to have an effective tax administration system, it should be available and very convenient to both the taxpayer and others who require it. So, where you have a situation such as land allocation, one of the conditions is a tax certificate.

So we’ll make it available to the government, to land registry and use it to confirm your land status. Even for politicians, they require tax certificate and INEC will have access to it and immediately they will know whether the person who is running for office is tax compliant or not.

What is the next phase of this new tax identification number (TIN) registration process?

The next phase is the deployment across the federation. And to give it to all government agencies that require it and of course, this information will be kept in strict confidence and will be used for the purpose for which it has been made available. And for taxpayers, it is another very convenient way to carry out business where a tax clearance certificate is required.

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