Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance, on Tuesday announced Federal Government’s plans to increase non-oil revenues by at least N75 billion this year.
Okonjo-Iweala said that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is currently working with McKinsey and Company to plug tax holes through a set of seven key initiatives.
The finance minister was speaking at the 44th annual accountants’ conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) where she encouraged the accountants to help government boost non-oil income.
She reiterated that the diagnostic by FIRS carried out in 2012 revealed that as many as 65 percent of registered tax payers have not filed their returns in 2 years. 75 percent of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) were not yet in the nation’s tax system while up to 35 percent of companies operating under the Pioneer Status Incentives abuse their tax exempt status.
“We have already begun to see positive results and we recognise that our success will be dependent on the support, professionalism and integrity we get from ICAN members who audit many of these companies’ accounts,” she told participants.
Fiscal deficit, she said, is now low at about 1.2 percent of GDP, with debt-to-GDP ratio also staying low at about 12 percent.
She said that the government is also rebuilding fiscal buffers, noting that while the excess crude account declined in 2013 due to unexpected fall in oil revenues, it has steadily increased this year, now standing at $4.05 billion.
Okonjo-Iweala pledged that the government would forge on in its implementation of sound macro-economic policy, as she urged ICAN’s support particularly as work progresses on improving government revenues.
She noted that the theme of this year’s conference, ‘Protecting the Public Interest: Enhancing Professionalism’, which, according to her, is a very important topic particularly for Nigeria’s development.
According to her, the professionalism and continued support of ICAN and other such professional bodies is indispensable to President Jonathan’s administration as he pushes forward the transformation agenda.
She, however, observed that in the last 44 years, the institution has been instrumental to the Nigerian development and that the government looks forward to its invaluable professionalism and expertise in the coming years as it continues to build on these achievements.
In his welcome address, Chidi Onyeukwu Ajaegbu, ICAN 50th and Golden jubilee president, stressed that the chartered accountants have the moral obligation to defend and protect the public interest without “fear or favour.”
He noted that as a body, ICAN must continue to act responsibly in the public interest by ensuring that members maintain the highest standard of professional conduct and competence.
Accordingly, he admitted that chartered accountants must resolve to continue to provide to their diverse stakeholders, including the business community, sound financial advice, credible and reliable financial and non-financial reporting, internal control measures and efficient resource management strategies that will create wealth for the benefit of the larger society.