Business

FG Reiterates Commitment To Fiscal Prudence, Telecom, Tech Experts Call For Reforms

Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed

By Benjamin Omoike

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has expressed the government’s commitment to exercising fiscal prudence and ensuring that taxpayers and citizens get value from the nation’s wealth. The Finance Minister made this statement at the 3rd edition of the Telecommunications and Technology Sustainability Working Group (TTSWG), industry webinar which held recently, with the theme: ‘Fast-tracking Economic Recovery Through Robust Tax Policies and Practices’.

The Minister in her address, added that in order to maximise its revenue, “the government would ensure policies to enable successful implementation of tax reforms through the Finance Act 2020 and also to ensure that revenue generating entities have resilient systems and we can continue to operate amidst the lockdown.”

Ahmed also noted that the Nigerian economic sustainability plan includes policies to rationalise tax expenditures, and incentives to recover unremitted funds by government owned enterprises and unlock value for government assets that are under utilised.

This keynote address kicked off discussions led by expert speakers drawn from both the telecoms and technology industries, as well as government agencies, on the need for public and private partnership to initiate and sustain favourable tax policies. Discussants from the public sector argued that taxation is the basic source of revenue for the government, as evident in every thriving economy but was neglected for many years, due to the funds derived from crude oil.

Consequently, the fall in the price of crude oil coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to prioritise taxation, and for businesses from all sectors just like individual citizens, to live up to the civic duty of prompt payment of correct taxes.

Whilst concluding her remarks, the Honourable Minister added that the government is open to exploring public-private partnership on the interventions and also other key sectors of the economy.

She urged industry players to join hands with the government in charting Nigeria back to a resilient and sustainable path of growth.

In a response, the association presidents for the licensed telecoms companies and telecoms operators, advocated for a review of taxes and levies, numbering 40, that businesses in the sector are expected to pay. They also decried the misalignment between the federal and state governments and their agencies, with respect to repeated levies and taxes demanded from organisations to the detriment of profits and economic challenges in spite of increasing operational costs.

Other speakers called for a further dialogue in the wake of increased taxation by the government due to challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. They also called for an urgent review of the 2016 Tax Policy that applies to the Telecom and technology industries as a measure to ensure the success of the digital economy strategy and auxiliary policies of the government, targeted at broadband infrastructure development.

Furthermore, the speakers were unanimous in their request for the need for the simplification of tax processes in order to boost the confidence of citizens and increase compliance.

The third edition of the Telecommunications and Technology Sustainability Working Group (TTSWG)  industry webinar was designed to foster public-private partnership to address Nigeria’s economic recovery and sustainability of organisations through robust and sustainable tax policies. In her welcome remarks, the event host and Technical Consultant to the Group, Emilia Asim-Ita, stated that the industry webinar series was designed to engage and contribute to the policy advocacy and formulation pillar, as a key objective for the set up of the sustainability working group.

Speakers at the event included: Taiwo Oyedele Partner and West Africa Tax Leader, PwC; Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators in Nigeria; and Olusola Teniola, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

Others were: Ben Akabueze, Director-General, Budget Office; Muhammad Mamman Nami, FIRS Chairman, who was reperesneted by Mathew Gbonjubola, Director, Tax Policy and Advisory, and Prof. Teju Somorin, Professor of Taxation & Fiscal Policy  Dean, College of Postgraduate Studies Caleb University.

The event was moderated by Nana Mgbechikwere Nwachukwu, a Public Policy Advisor and Funmi Olaniyi, Manager, Andersen Tax.

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