Tony Elumelu: Government Must Create Favourable Tax Policies
Tony O. Elumelu has called for far reaching Tax reforms and for the National Assembly to urgently pass the Executive Tax bill into law. Elumelu made this statement as he delivered the keynote address at the 21st Annual Tax Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), titled, “National Development: Unlocking the Potentials of Taxation”.
Speaking on the challenges that stifle small businesses, Elumelu quoted a young entrepreneur beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, “The average business owner in Nigeria is a local government authority on his own because he caters for his own electricity with generators, he builds his own borehole, handles his own waste disposal, and the government can make his life easier by creating favourable tax policies that support SMEs.”
Elumelu also lamented the plight of SMEs at the mercy of the tax system revealing, “The average number of taxes businesses pay in Nigeria is 48, compared to 33 in other Sub-Saharan countries. In Hong Kong, it’s just 3. Multiple taxation remains a significant burden for SMEs and corporates operating in the country.” Elumelu continued: “With a population of close to 200 million people in Nigeria, we have only 75,000 registered SMEs in the country. No one needs to tell us that people are avoiding tax or refusing to be a part of the system,” he said.
With high cost of compliance, complex and costly business registration processes, many SMEs are choosing to remain informal, which in turn results in a low tax base and low tax contribution to GDP. “Nigeria’s tax to GDP ratio is only circa 6%, compared to far smaller populations like Rwanda at 16%. Imagine the economic transformation we can achieve as a country if we can move our Tax to GDP ratio by 10%. We will raise an additional $40billion in government revenue – identical to the sum of our foreign reserves,” Elumelu explained.
But it won’t be easy. Elumelu advised government to educate, inform and raise tax awareness, “Government should drive mass mobilisation of citizens – let citizens know why they need to pay taxes and give them the assurance that their tax will be properly utilised.” In addition he stated that, “government should employ the use of smart tax incentives to attract and incentivise local and foreign investors.”