The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has been urged to ensure that the state’s proposed Internal Revenue Service Bill protects the rights of the most vulnerable taxpayers, especially women and other players in the informal economy. The call was made today by Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization involved in economic justice advocacy, in its memorandum to a public hearing on the Bill organized by the House Committee on Appropriations and Finance in Uyo.
The memorandum, signed by the organization’s Head of Programmes, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, noted that “over the past 16 years a number of operational weaknesses and gaps in the extant legal framework for revenue administration in the state have continued to undermine not only the rights of the weakest and poorest tax payers out there but also the capacity of the state government to generate sustainable levels of internal revenue.” It listed some of the challenges of revenue governance in the state to include “weak administrative structures, high-handedness of revenue collectors, lack of transparency and accountability for collected revenues, arbitrariness and often unduly high tax burdens on tax payers in the informal sector”.
Among its other proposals, the group recommended that the Bill should aim to curb arbitrariness and reduce excessive tax burdens on the most vulnerable tax payers such as market women and men, keke drivers and street hawkers by strengthening provisions relating to local government revenue committees, “outlawing the use of agents and tax consultants for the collection of taxes”, restricting the definition of revenue collector in the Bill “to bona fide employees of the IRS to avoid room for abuse as currently experienced” and protecting taxpayers from excesses of revenue collectors by limiting the immunity provisions in the bill.
The group, which is also a member of the Akwa Ibom State Tax Justice Platform, also demanded that the Bill should contain stronger provisions to ensure transparency and accountability, such as that all collectable taxes and annual reports “should be published on the IRS website and other formats within a specified time frame” and that auditors should not be appointed by the Board but by an external authority.