I am a Nigerian who plies my trade across the country but with less or no earnings from my state of origin. I dont even know exactly where I reside.
My trade is nomadic in nature, I am always in the air 24/7 sleeping practically in hotels across the cities of the country and abroad but I pay my income taxes into the cover of my state of origin while paying VAT in hotels, banks, airports, restaurants, eateries etc.
The government at various levels make provisions for their workers welfare and salaries during the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic but no provision was made for the hapless itinerary salesman, itinerary professional, commercial driver, food vendor, law chambers, medical clinics, barbing or air saloon etc in the private sector yet it is the private sector that drives the economy in most economic striving countries of the world.
We just dont have thinkers at various levels of governance. Think of the enormous opportunities available to the states of the federation in terms of IGR generation that are lying fallow because of lack of creative thinking. Look at the informal sector of the economy, look at the textile dealer in Gbagi, Dugbe, Wuse in Abuja, in Lagos, Ogbete.in Enugu. He or she makes more legitimate taxable income than the permanent secretary , GM , commissioner, minister etc in the government ministry or public corporation. The man in public office, bank, estate developing firm, law and medical firm etc but no creative thinking to factor in the mama put, yam seller, palm oil merchant etc into the tax net either in terms of VAT or PAYE.
The VAT war between some states and FIRS presents a golden opportunity to the states and local governments across the country, especially in the South West to put on their thinking cap, galvanise their residents into responsible citizenship.
The local government authorities should retrieve the tenement rates, market taxes, liquor, off licensing, motor parks taxes etc from the states in line with the provisions of the 4th Schedule to the 1999 constitution as amended and the Supreme Court judgments which vests these in the province of Local Government Areas and streamline the VAT and sales taxes along the path of constitutional democracy.
This opportunity should not be lost especially by serious thinking states and local governments. The services of professional accountants, tax experts, lawyers and estate valuers should be engaged to drive the process. The states, local governments and indeed the larger society would be the gainers and would be better for the innovation.
Think, state governments! Think, local governments! Think, CSO! We all need to build a thinking and pragmatic society.
*Akintola is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.