By NBF News

The South-east zone of the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) inaugurated on February 4 last year in Abuja was yesterday officially opened in Enugu with the tribunal holding its inaugural sitting. The South-east zone tribunal has as members, Prof. Chudi J. Amasike, South-east (Chairman), Prof. Eddy Omolehinwa, South-west (Commissioner), Dr Josephine A.A. Agbonika, North-central (Commissioner), Ignatius Chibututu, South-south (Commissioner) and Alhjai Fate Abubakar, North-east (Commissioner) who died last year.

Speaking at the inaugural sitting, the Chairman, Prof Amasike said the Tax Appeal Tribunal in the zone would adopt the global practice of resolving disputes and controversies as quickly as possible between parties that appear before it, namely tax payers and tax authorities or collectors.

The tribunal chairman reminded those in the court that funds realized from taxation were used for development purposes such as the provision of roads, hospitals, schools, among others.

'So, there are good reasons why we should pay our taxes and may we use this opportunity to appeal to you to always pay your taxes when due,' he appealed.

He pointed out that TAT in the country was established by Section 59 of the Federal Inland Revenue Service Act of 2007, saying that by virtue of Section 11(1) of the 5th Schedule of the Act, the tribunal would have the power to adjudicate on disputes and controversies arising from Companies Income Tax Act, Personal Income Tax Act, Petroleum Profits Tax Act, Value Added Tax Act, Capital Gains Act and other specified taxes.

Amasike, however, said 'by virtue of Section 17(1) of the 5th Schedule of the Act, any person dissatisfied with the direction of the Tribunal may appeal against such a decision on point of law to the Federal High Court.'

He also said the Tribunal had the responsibility to report criminal acts to appropriate criminal prosecuting authorities if it discovers any evidence of criminality in the course of carrying out its work of adjudication.

The chairman also announced that 'with the coming into force of the Act, the former VAT Tribunal and the Body of Appeal Commissioners now cease to exist as both bodies have now been merged into the Tax Appeal Tribunal.'

Also speaking, the South-east Regional Coordinator and Deputy Director of First Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Peter Igwe told those in the Tribunal that they were now in the era of self-assessment and compliance tax regime, saying his service would no longer tolerate those who allow the payment of their taxes to enter into arrears.

He, therefore, enjoined tax payers to avail themselves of the new opportunity than to wait for the tax collectors to come after them.

Igwe said it was not the desire of the FIRS to send anybody to jail or wind up companies but to ensure that everybody paid his or her taxes as at when due, saying that was what informed the setting up of TAT.