The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has disclosed that it plans to grow the nation’s number of taxpayers to 17 million from the current level of 14 million. The planned increase is 35 per cent above the current base.

Speaking at a public forum in Kano State, chairman of the tax agency, Tunde Fowler said the country cannot develop unless everyone sees tax as a compulsory duty, with a 16 per cent tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio.

Nigeria presently has 14 million corporate and individual taxpayers in its tax net.

The federal government targets N6.747 trillion revenue from tax in 2018 alone. The government is making an aggressive tax drive as sustainable revenue to fund her expenses.

“If Nigerians want to feel the impact of the government they must begin to see themselves as part of the process of development and pay their taxes. Nigeria has no business being under 15 per cent,” Fowler said.

He said every economically active individual must have a tax clearance. “We are consolidating a database that will ensure everyone gets to know their tax payment records, and every individual, companies must remit,” he said, adding that “Our consultants are currently designing a VAT forms certificate that will display every business; no one can be exempted from the tax payment system. As far as there is need to spend money, we will evaluate them and tax them on that.”

Giving his experience in one of his recent travels out of the country, Mr. Fowler said, “I was at the United Nations, and experts came up with a formula warning that if a country’s tax to GDP ratio is below 15 per cent it is unlikely that they can expect economic development in that country or any infrastructure. In 2016, Nigeria was about 16 per cent; we are still working on the 2017 Nigerian figures.”

Asked if the FIRS is considering extending the period of its tax amnesty programme, Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) billed to end on March 31, Fowler said the government has no plans yet to extend it, while calling on individuals, corporate organisations to regularise their tax status or face the penalties.