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ZACCH ADEDEJI’S PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION: A PATHWAY TO NIGERIA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH

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Zacch Adedeji’s principles of taxation: A pathway to Nigeria’s economic growth

 

By Dr. Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmad

Since the assumption of Zacch Adedeji, Ph.D to office as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), I have followed keenly his enunciation of his principles of taxation, which, to my mind, can translate to a pathway to Nigeria’s economic growth. 

To be sure, Adedeji’s principles of taxation embody some of the normative principles of taxation which are certainty, flexibility, equity, simplicity, and utmost good faith. At every given forum, Adedeji does not fail to reify his wholesome principles of taxation. He is wont to say that, “we will tax the fruit, not the seed; we will tax prosperity, not poverty.These are statements of certainty, and equity, which are altogether refreshing and reassuring. 

The reassurance in his statements is underlined by his insistence that his tax principles are focused on encouraging taxpayers to grow their investments or income so that they can yield enough taxable dividends or profits. In his most philosophical best, he icompares taxpayers to gardeners and the taxman as one who waters the garden. He says it is the duty of the government to create a conducive environment for taxpayers and their businesses to thrive in the hope that once they have a fulsome yield, they will gladly pay their taxes. That is why he says the taxman is not aiming to tax poverty but prosperity.

Adedeji’s principles of taxation anticipate economic boom, and discourage tax hikes in times of economic depression. The flexibility principle provides that the amount of tax charged should not be the same all year round; and, that tax rates should be lowered for other social benefits during economic boom, while during economic depression tax rates may be raised to raise maximum funds for developmental projects. Adedeji’s taxation principle does not support tax hikes that will become a burden on the taxpayers or the citizenry. 

Thus, it is obvious that Adedeji’s taxation principle takes cognizance of the fact that taxation is the lifebuoy of the economy, it is the fecund source of economic development. It follows then that when taxes are collected and properly utilized in grooming businesses, empowering citizens through access to low interest loans and grants, diversification of business activities like the creation of value chains, and provision of critical social amenities, there will be enough income in the pool to tax. In other words, there will be enough fruit from which to pick.

 Recently, the Federal Government took the right step in the right direction by establishing the Consumer Credit Scheme which guarantees access to loans facility for the citizenry to grow their business activities. The logic here is that once there is a boom in economic activities in the informal sector of the economy, there will be a corresponding widening of the tax net without complaint from the tax paying community. 

It is this veritable connection between taxation and economic growth that Adedeji’s principles of taxation seek to highlight, making them the pathway to Nigeria’s economic growth. In concrete terms, Adedeji’s unwavering commitment to expounding his taxation principles has already raked in more than Three Trillion naira in tax revenue in the first quarter of 2024 for the three tiers of government in aid of the execution of the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In addition to raising this much revenue, Adedeji has also reorganised the structure of the Service to reflect his taxation principle of customer-centricity. He believes that taxpayers should form the focal point of the operations of the Service, and that regard, they be treated with due diligence.

 Presently, the Service is structured based on the category of taxpayers: Large Taxpayers Group, Medium Taxpayers Group, and Small Taxpayers Group; as well as five other services groups, viz, Corporate Services Group, People Services Group, Support Services Group, Compliance and Enforcement Support Group, and the Special Duties. This taxpayers-based operational categorisation is purposely to simplify tax payment processes, which is made moreso by the introduction of the various automation platforms. 

And so, it is always both refreshing and reassuring to listen to Adedeji marshals his thoughts around the issue of making taxation the pivot of national development. He often couches his statements in literal parallelism, metaphor and humour. This rare sagely gift sets him apart as a conscientious taxman. Beneath his jocular mien lies a determination to set Nigeria’s fiscal trajectory and tax system on the pathway of sustainable economic growth.

● Ahmad, PHD, is the Director of Communications and Liaison Department, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

Abuja.

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