Subsidy probe: We only enforce tax, FIRS tells lawmakers

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has told the House of Representatives’ ad-hoc committee investigating the petroleum subsidy regime in Nigeria that its duty is mainly the collection of revenue for the government and not keeping records of how the monies are expended.

Muhammad Nami, executive chairman of FIRS, represented by Dick Irri, coordinating director, compliance support group of the agency, said this when he appeared before the committee at its resumed hearing on Thursday.

He said the role of the FIRS, as provided by its Establishment Act, is confined to the assessment of taxpayers, collection of taxes, accounting for and enforcement of taxes that were due to the government of the federation.

He said: “The Service’s statutory functions remain that of assessment, collection, accounting, and enforcement of payment of taxes that are due to the government of the federation and any of its agencies.

“Taxes collected by the FIRS are usually shared amongst the three tiers of the government in line with the constitution of the country; and FIRS does not maintain records of what the funds are used for by the three tiers of government. The Service also does not have the power to ask for such records.”

Nami said the request by the committee for information on subsidy was not tax-related, and thus was not within the statutory powers of the service.

He said: “The Service holds the Adhoc Committee on Petroleum Products Subsidy Regime and other Committees of the National Assembly in high esteem and will always give necessary support to ensure the success of their oversight functions.

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“All the tax-related information requested on your letter dated 1st July, 2022 has been duly submitted. All the 16 items listed on your letter dated 5th August 2022 are not tax related and also are not part of the responsibilities of the Service.”

Ibrahim Aliyu, chairman of the committee, while ruling on the various concerns expressed by members of the panel, directed the FIR management to furnish the lawmakers with the total petroleum products tax that the agency collected from 2013 to 2022.

Aliyu said: “Let us know the time within which you normally have the taxes from the NNPC. In the second vein, most of the members are not abreast with the submissions of this Service.

“Why, because you chose to adopt a certain format of presentation in annexures and you bandied it that has made it very difficult for members to read it and understand the figures. That is what the other Honourable colleague is trying to raise and I think you should make a legible presentation before this honourable committee for further engagement.”

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