The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is the apex revenue authority in Nigeria and its role in tax administration can not be overemphasized. A recent news publication by The Guardian Newspaper on its website gave insights into the powers of the revenue body in tax administration.
To begin with, Section 8 of the FIRS (Establishment) Act, 2007, bestows on the FIRS the power to “assess persons including companies, enterprises chargeable with tax; [and also] assess, collect, account and enforce payment of taxes as may be due to the Government or any of its agencies”. In addition, the Guardian reported that, subject to appropriate due process, when a person is defaulting in taxes, the FIRS has the power to direct anyone, including a bank, to pay the amount owed by the defaulter directly to the FIRS. The FIRS can also distrain (seize) some assets of such defaulter, or even proceed to prosecute him in a court of competent jurisdiction. It is important to also note here that authorised officers of the FIRS can very well be aided by law enforcement officers in the execution of warrants of distraints.
The power of the FIRS to ensure tax compliance was backed up by Mr. Olufemi Olarinde, the Technical Assistant to the FIRS Chairman, in an interview. He stated that the tax authority in all advanced and developed climes is given unfettered powers to taxpayers’ information. Mr. Chimenka Ezeribe, FIRS Assistant Director, also noted that FIRS has the power to examine and audit company and individual tax returns. He added that FIRS can also carry out investigations upon suspicion of a tax fraud.
The Guardian further reported some hindrances faced by the FIRS in its tax administration efforts. Mr. Ezeribe highlighted political will, use of technology, and human capacity, as a few of these. Mr. Taiwo Oyedele, Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PwC, also noted the multiplicity of revenue bodies as a major drawback.
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