The Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) Rennaisance: An X-Ray
Only a fortnight ago the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom took the state by storm with the announcement of a change in guard at the states Revenue service, Benue Internal Revenue Service (BIRS). This was consequent to the receipt of a handwritten resignation letter by the outgone Chairman Mr. Terzungwe Atser and the ushering in of Tax Master, Mr. Andrew Ayabam.
The announcement of Mr Ayabam turned out to be a society thriller as jubilation rent the air, social media abuzz and the corporate headquarters of BIRS immediately turned into a Mecca of some sort with well-wishers trooping in to rejoice with the new tax boss.
This buzz was not without reason, Mr. Ayabam had previously served in the same capacity seven years earlier where his famed to have performed a record feat never seen in the history of revenue.
A tax czar in himself; Ayabam it is who revolutionalised the tax system in the state raising revenue levels, creating tax awareness and jobs for the numerous unemployed youth in the state. It was in this Ayabamic era that the state witnessed the impact of taxation, where tax payers’ saw what their monies were used and could point to the benefits of taxation, thus encouraging tax payment.
As such the resultant razzle-dazzle that accompanied his reappointment was justified as the people after seven years of gloom like the biblical Egyptian plague, were looking to another seven years of bloom- a renaissance.
With the knowledge of the enormous task ahead amidst public expectations, the Banker cum tax expert has already swung into action aimed at a potential rejuvenation of a near comatose tax system.
A worker and not a talker, Ayabam on the first day in office immediately swung into action by ordering all tax consultants who erstwhile had developed a lackadaisical towards their duty with reckless abandon to pay-up all pending remittances which have amounted to several millions. This marching order was followed by a declaration that all tax consultants and contractors to the Service MUST be up to date with their own taxes and thus were required to produce their tax clearance certificates on or before seven days of the issued order.
Unfortunately only yesterday over 40 of these contractors who may have believed it is still business as usual, had their contracts terminated leaving only 14 who have dutifully complied. Surely this is proof that there is a new sheriff in town.
Until the assumption of office the conduct of taxes in the state was a market jamboree for all comers and milking cow for buccaneers as tax consultants who had little or no knowledge at all about tax administration, were engaged by the Service. These buccaneers sailed on the waves of maladministration to deprive the state of hundreds of million in taxes by diverting the remittances into their private and personal accounts turning in only what they chose to and when they deemed it fit. With the return of Ayabam, all taxes have been ordered to be paid into only revenue accounts owned by the Internal Revenue Service which has one in every commercial bank operating in the state. In furtherance to this directive, the Chairman has also abolished the use of receipts and reemphasized the use of Point Of Sales (POS) machines to cut down tax losses.
It is also common knowledge that prior to the appointment of Mr. Ayabam, staff the University of Agriculture and Benue State University were denied Tax Clearance Certificates, however the new Chairman has lifted the ban and already these institutions’ staff are already trooping in to receive their tax clearance certificates.
His recent reforms have not left out the common man and traders as prior to his appointment there was a barrage of taxes and multiple taxation which scared off traders who visited the state to do business, however as it stands to the tax czar has swung into action to eradicate these unnecessary taxes and has given taxation a human face.
In order to promote the growth of small scale businesses which will in the long run lead to a bigger tax base, the new Chairman has begun synergy with the Small Scale & Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) to find ways to lower the tax burden on small scale business and nurture them into longer life.
It is obvious thus far that his sojourn at the Federal Inland Revenue Service where he lifted his zone to an enviable position of the best performing tax zone in just three years has further horned his skills, Benue will soon go back to those glory days when every tax payer was proud to have contributed the development of his state.
Ati Terkula is a public policy analyst from Anyiin Logo, Local Government, Area, in Benue State.