“I’d like somebody to get rid of the death tax. That’s what I want. I don’t want to get taxed just because I died. I just don’t think it’s right. If I give something to my kid, I already paid the tax. Why should I have to pay it again because I died?”–Whoopi Goldberg
If the maiden edition of the National Tax Debate was awesome, then the second edition of the annual National Tax Debate definitely upped the ante. The importance of taxation to a Government can never be overemphasised. For anyone who has knowledge of taxation, there is a need to constantly explore the relationship between taxation and every facet of government – political, social, and economic. History shows us that the Aba women riot was a consequence of the imposition of direct taxes on women in the eastern part of Nigeria. Again, the events surrounding the Boston Tea Party and the subsequent American Revolution stemmed from the agitation against taxation without representation. Then, following the exposure of the evils of transfer pricing by big corporations, ordinary citizens have begun to boycott the patronization of certain corporations. In the UK, tax payers protests led to Vodafone shutting down one of its stores. In addition, the boycott starbucks hashtag (#boycottstarbucks) sprang up upon the revelation that Starbucks declared loss to avoid paying corporate tax. Finally, tax rates actually affect consumption and saving habits of tax payers, and if properly controlled, may be used to raise extra revenue for the government without a corresponding increase in the burden on the shoulder of the taxpayers – the luxury tax on private jets illustrates how the government may get back some of its embezzled funds without necessarily increasing the burden on the ordinary taxpayer.
The point being made here is that this annual event is an avenue to trade arguments and view points on tax related issues as they affect Nigeria as a country, and Nigeria in its relationship with other countries. Conversations are taking place every day, and in this particular instance, the youths have decided to be at the fore front. All private stakeholders and the government should pay more attention, everybody must take part. There is more to be done.
The debate was a two-day event – 17th and 18th of September, 2015. The Quarter Finals and Semi Finals took place on the first day, while the Finals and the Best Orator Battle took place on the second day. Ten schools – universities – were short listed to participate in the debate. The participants at the debate proper were the survivors of the knock off stage. The other eight schools – apart from UNILAG (as hosts) and UNN (as reigning champions) were to submit essays titled ‘Present, using global statistics, arguments on why tax avoidance particularly base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) affect and undermine a state’s economy and development whilst proffering pragmatically sound action plans to put it in check’. The two schools that didn’t make the cut were Lagos State University (LASU) and Uthman Danfodio University, Sokoto. For the Quarter Finals Babcock was paired with UNIABUJA (University of Abuja), OAU (Obafemi Awolowo University) was up against UNILORIN (University of Ilorin), UNN had to battle UI for a spot in the semifinals, and UNILAG and UNIZIK had to slug it out. The topics were ‘The requirement that Tax Treaties be ratified for them to acquire force of law domestically is retrogressive. It stalls the development of International Tax pooling’, ‘The National Tax Policy as a platform for engendering fiscal responsibility and optimising revenue generation by the three tiers of government should not be a centralised framework’, ‘The Campaign against Base Erosion and Profit Shifting benefits developed states more than it does developing ones’, and ‘It is a perfect step in the right direction for Circulars and opinions of the FIRS as well as other Tax authorities to be of binding authority’ respectively.
Babcock beat UNIABUJA 79.6% to 73.8% to move to the Semifinals. OAU prevailed against UNILORIN with 76.7% to 66.3% to clinch a place in the Semifinals. UI lost their opportunity to move to the next stage by losing to UNN who scored 75.8%. UNILAG qualified for the semi finals by beating UNIZIK with 3.1% lead. OAU trounced BABCOCK while arguing against the application of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms to tax disputes. For UNILAG, it is the perfect step in the right direction for the circulars of tax authorities to be of binding authority, and while UNIZIK may have put up interesting arguments, the judges were actually not impressed enough to give them a space to compete at the finals. UNILAG and OAU were the finalists debating on the topic, ‘Payment of Tax should give a Tax payer Locus standi to challenge misappropriation of public funds’.
OAU beat UNILAG with just 1% – must have been a tough choice for the judges – to clinch the title this year. OAU are the reigning 2015 champions of the annual National Tax Debate organized by the Tax Club UNILAG.
It must be noted that OAU did not participate last year. UNILAG had a stellar outing, considering the fact that last year, they were knocked out by UNN – who went on to become the champions. LASU were sorely missed. It was quite unfortunate that they did not make it to the quarter finals. UNILORIN did not make it past the quarter finals, which was quite disappointing considering their outstanding performance last year. UI definitely do have a lot of work to do if they want to remain the last group standing next year. BABCOCK gave their opponents at each stage a run for their money. They are also the first and only private university to have featured in the debate. Hopefully, Uthman Danfodio University and the University of Uyo will make it next year.
If UNN failed to take away the title this year, their Miss Ugbaonogo Uche made astatement by going home with the #100 000 Chijioke Uwagbute (General Electric) Prize for the Best Orator. Contestants were to argue for or against the effectiveness of actual profit tax filing over Withholding tax for non-residents. Mr Gabriel Aliyu of UNILAG and Mr Bolaji Ojo of UNIABUJA tied for the second position. The prize, however, is meant for the winner.
The Debate is starting to get the attention it deserves. The Acting FIRS chairman, and former LIRS chairman, Mr Babatunde Fowler was the special guest of honour. Other esteemed guests include – Dr Teju Somorin (FCTI) – author of Teju Tax and the incumbent President of the CITN, Mrs Titi Fowokan, Group Tax Manager, OANDO plc, Mr Moses Ibiloye, Head of Audit, FIRS, and Mr Adeniyi Adebanjo, Deputy Director at LIRS.
The impartial Judges include Mrs Folashade Coker-Afolayan, the Assistant Director of Tax Audit at LIRS, Mrs Lolade Desalu, Senior Accountant at Addax Petroleum, Mr Ikenna Amanze, tax manager at KPMG, Mr Adebayo of CITN, Miss Abdul Malik Nana of Oando, Mr Bolaga Osiga Director at FIRS, Mr Ayodele Otitoju, Chairman Committee of Students Affairs, CITN, Mrs Ameenat Oluwa – Badmus of LIRS, Mrs Titi Fowokan of Oando and Mr Chinedu Ezubuike of KPMG.
The tax club wishes to express its gratitude to everybody who contributed to making the Annual National Tax Debate a success. The mentorship of Mr Fuad Laguda, the former Personal Assistant to the Chairman and Mr Olumide Oluola of the Relationship and Management Unit of the LIRS cannot be over –appreciated. The Club would like to thank Mrs Ayoola Apampa of EY (Ernst and Young), Mr Sola Arifayan of Ikeyi & Arifayan, Alhaji Bayo Adiamo of Dufil Prima foods ( without whom the Indomie break would have been impossible), Deloitte for educational materials, Mr Fisayo Awogbade – the Registrar of the CITN, who did everything in his power to ensure the presence of Dr Teju Somorin, CITN and LIRS for all the forms of support, Mrs Sola Ismail of Nigerian Breweries and the Patron of the Club , Mr Taiwo Oyedele who couldn’t make it but fulfilled his role as a Patron and even more.
In conclusion, this is second best thing that happened to the Nigerian Taxation System after the appointment of Mr Babatunde Fowler as the Acting Chairman of the FIRS. If the Senate knows what it is doing, they would better confirm his appointment without any delay.
P.S A big thank you to Boro (for the pictures), Gamaliel Olayiwola, Yemi Adebo and all the Tax Club executives for making it possible for me to get the information required to upload this post. I appreciate my one and only one-of-a-kind correspondent – Adaeze Akuegbu – you are the best! I thank God for making it possible for me to cover the second edition of this big event. I do hope we can make it happen next year.