Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, Taiwo Oyedele, has revealed that there are over over 108 informal taxes collected all over the place, sometimes by non-state actors that have been empowered, either passively or actively by the government.
This is just as he revealed plans by the federal government to reduce the number of taxes in the country from about 62 to less than 10.
Oyedele stated this in Abuja, on Tuesday, at the 53rd annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.
According to him, at least 62 taxes are officially gathered across various government tiers in the nation, a situation that imposed a heavy burden on Nigerian business operators.
“At the federal level, the list is somewhere close to 16 officially, at the state level 25, Local Government 21. But this is just the beginning of the story. The story is incomplete until you add the over 108 informal taxes collected all over the place, sometimes by non-state actors that have been empowered, either passively or actively by the government.
“In fact, we have bicycle tax, and wheelbarrow tax in Nigeria. I think if you’re looking for the definition of wickedness, it will be to find a man who is struggling to make ends meet pushing their wheelbarrow in the sun and say, you have not paid your tax.
“What I want and hope to achieve is the reduction of the number of taxes to less than 10, yes, we want a single digit, and we want to cut down revenue collection agencies to one for each tier of government. With this, the federal government has one revenue collection agency, the same for state and local governments. So that they can focus on their primary mandate of making life easier for citizens,” he said.
Oyedele further highlighted a range of pressing issues that Nigeria must confront, such as poverty, meagre revenue, surging debt, diminishing investments, and the increasing trend of youth migration out of the country.
He clarified that the multidimensional poverty index, exposing the fact that more than 133 million Nigerians experienced multi-dimensional poverty, was computed using criteria such as healthcare access, education, security, and other factors.
“We have widespread poverty, government’s revenue is low and as a consequence, public debt is high. And the debt service to revenue ratio is one of the highest we’ve seen anywhere in the world. Investment is declining and you cannot have economic growth without investments.
“Whether they are domestic or international, we’re not attracting foreign investment, and we’re not mobilising domestic investment enough. Many of the existing investors are leaving and those who are left are asking questions; can we continue?,” he added.
Oyedele added that to address poverty in the country, there is a need for the government to measure public expenditure to GDP.
“We need to know how much of what you collected from the people have you given back to them. And why give it back to them, it is important to note in what ways are you giving it back.
“For example, if you decide to build high rises, airports, and flyovers when the people lack drinking water, basic education, and there’s no road from the farm to the market, it’s the wrong priority and it is as good as the money being stolen, or the money being wasted. So, the problem is not with the tax itself. It is what you do with the taxes you have collected.”