At around 11 a.m. on Friday, November 12, 2021, it was the buzz among tax aficionados: Muhammad Nami, the boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) had been elected president of the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA). He is the first Nigerian in the history of CATA to be so elected.
CATA is an association formed at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting in Barbados in 1977 to promote the improvement of tax administration within the Commonwealth with particular interest in developing countries. In 1978, 26 countries, including Nigeria, formed CATA; the number of members has increased to 47 today.
The 47 member countries of the Association unanimously elected Muhammad Nami to lead them. The excitement was palpable. Beyond that, there was an aura that spoke more than the applause that followed Muhammad Nami’s acceptance speech.
The applause from these enthusiastic representatives during the virtual session of the Fifteenth General Assembly of CATA was a call for hope, ideas and a leader to tackle and solve global tax problems.
Ordinarily, the General Assembly would have been a physical event. Unfortunately, the 2021 General Assembly was virtual. Not thanks to the merciless Coronavirus pandemic which has turned everything upside down; from lives to jobs, health care, travel, family and for the men and women in this virtual meeting, government revenues. As such, it was up to them to elect an individual who would break the mold of Covid-19 on government revenue.
Muhammad Nami knows this. Like any leader in tax administration. His country, Nigeria, has seen the woes of the pandemic: government revenues have shrunk, jobs have been lost, and the burden of seeking income has introduced a desperate situation: to get money wherever it is. This responsibility rested on his shoulder. And he has so far delivered.
In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic struck, economies around the world were battered and most countries suffered fiscal shocks. The tax authorities have not been able to raise sufficient funds to meet the needs of the government to carry out their mandates. Despite the fiscal chaos, FIRS was able to achieve 98% of the national fiscal target for that year.
It had collected total tax revenues of over 4.952 billion naira, slightly below the target of 5.07 billion naira the federal government had set for it. This near 100% achievement was phenomenal. It came the same year that the pandemic had curtailed business activity, lockdowns frustrated trade, while tax exemptions were granted to small businesses and tax exemptions granted by FIRS to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
In the same year, the Service under Nami achieved 109% of its non-oil tax collection target.
How was all of this possible, even in the face of a rampaging tax looter?
Nami took office with a spirit of reform and results. He drew up a roadmap of the objectives he sought for FIRS: rebuilding its institutional framework; better collaborate with stakeholders; Make FIRS a client-centric institution and a data-centric institution.
These goals underlie all of the decisions he made as Executive Chairman of FIRS. It’s no surprise that in the second year of his tenure, he rolled out the revolutionary digital platform TaxPro Max: FIRS for Tax Administration that enables taxpayers to register, file and to pay their taxes easily from any location other than their respective tax offices.
Then he set up the Directorate of Tax Incentives Management to monitor and take charge of the taxation of companies benefiting from tax exemptions and holidays and ensure that they do not take undue advantage of their coverage status to collect taxable income and refuse to pay taxes on these income.
“Data is the new oil” is an aphorism that Nami often repeats. It is with this in mind that he created the department of intelligence, exploration and strategic data analysis of the FIRS, a department to extract data, analyze it and make sense of the transactions that take place. across the country and around the world for tax administration.
The world is experiencing change and an unusual dynamic with technology at the cutting edge of disruption. Nami has always advocated for reforms of operations, processes and tax laws, while continuing to adopt technology for revenue mobilization and enhancing human capital development to put tax administrators at the forefront. -keep.
Nigeria’s annual review of its budget law, a ritual in which the boss of FIRS participated, is a model that tax reformers concerned with addressing revenue challenges should embrace.
It was the 2020 finance law that gave FIRS the legal support to deploy the technology for the tax administration. Without this amendment to the FIRS Establishment Act, the successes recorded in the adoption and deployment of the TaxPro Max would not have enjoyed the jubilation it enjoys today. The law has also created more possibilities for the tax administration to investigate potential sources of income that have been long abandoned; in the 2021 finance bill, the FIRS should be given increased revenue collection powers.
Among other things, he proposes a single tax administration authority that would ensure the certainty of tax liability and the ease of paying taxes, which means Nigeria is poised to generate much more revenue than it does. previously.
Commonwealth countries look forward to the leadership of Muhammad Nami to lead CATA through the turbulence of today’s complexities and provide new thinking, strategic leadership and reform-driven development to the body of tax administrators, as it is the case in Nigeria.
On Friday November 27, 2021, Muhammad Nami entered the UK Treasury Chamber for his first face-to-face meeting with members of the CATA Secretariat, as well as with representatives of the UK Revenue Authority. Uni – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Mr. Duncan Onduru, Executive Director of the Association, briefed the new President on the governance and structure of the office, as well as the perspectives and challenges facing the Association.
“We can no longer afford to discuss taxation without technology,” joked Muhammad Nami, making his remarks to those present at the meeting. True to reality, the tax administration must be in step with modern technological advances. And in fact, in front.
For Nami, four points are high on her agenda for the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators: improving the ability of members to respond to today’s dynamics, especially in technological advancements; promote multilateral Commonwealth tax relief for all member countries; promote the bilateral double taxation avoidance convention between member countries; and forge strategic partnerships with development and multilateral institutions, to support capacity building of CATA members.
Over the next three years, the value of Muhammad Nami’s more than thirty years of experience as a tax advisor, administrator and reformer would again be tested. The Nigerian model, whose numbers are already boasting results, is a ready-made gift to the Commonwealth. Expectations are high, given the rare moments Nami has encountered in power. Still, the FIRS boss has shown he has the right mindset, solid records and the ability to lead CATA. The Commonwealth awaits its reforms and its results.
Johannes O. Wojuola is Special Assistant on Media and Communication to the President of FIRS