By NBF News
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The authorities of the Federal Inland Revenue Service have accused ministries, departments and agencies of federal, state and local governments in the country of owing the agency several billions of naira in unremitted taxes.

The Director, Tax Controller, Large Tax Office (Non- Oil), Lagos, Mr. Okengwu Kingsley, disclosed this on Friday in Benin, Edo State, at a one-day seminar for states, local government councils and ministries, departments and agencies. The forum had the theme 'The Imperatives of Withholding Tax and VAT Remittances,' and was organised by the FIRS, Benin and Auchi Integrated Tax Office.

Kingsley said the Service was ready, more than ever before, to follow up on the collection of the withholding taxes.

Okengwu, in a lecture titled, 'MDAs Tax Arrears (Principal, Penalty and Interest) and Way Out,' said the organisation had put in place a special team to distill figures from the field for the purpose of effective enforcement and other administrative actions.

He said that the FIRS, as part of the ongoing reforms aimed at enhancing quick dispensation of services to customers, had adopted the Integrated Tax Administration System project for automated collection system. Okengwu added that with the system, tax payers would have access to tax transaction anywhere in the country.

The South- South Co-ordinator of FIRS, Mr. Oshiga Gbolagan, who was represented by Obri Ogan, Tax Controller, Benin office, said the seminar was put together as a child of necessity to deal with the observed gaps in the process of complying with the related tax laws.

He said that the importance of withholding tax and VAT remittances could be over- emphasised in the face of the fluctuating/dwindling revenues from oil, stressing that non- oil tax revenue needs to be grown and sustained.

Gbolagan, in a statement, however, stated that the local government, states and MDAs are very instrumental in this regard, 'as the law empowers them to charge and withhold the VAT as well as to deduct withholding taxes from payments to contractors.'

He added, 'It would consequently be tantamount to unpatriotic act for any organisation to refuse to deduct or having done so refuses to remit, or even worse still not understanding the concept.'

He said the FIRS introduced Tax Identification Number, to serve taxpayers better and faster.