By Nicholas Kalu, Abuja
The Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Muhammad Nami, says the agency does not grant tax waivers to any local or foreign investors in the country.
Nami said the FIRS Act does not empower it to grant such tax breaks.
The FIRS boss said this in Abuja on Friday when he appeared before the the House of Representatives’ Public Accounts Committee investigating allegations of suspicious tax waivers granted to three foreign firms operating in the country.
The firms are Indorama Petrochemical, Indorama Fertilizer and Petrochemical Ltd and OIS Indorama Eleme in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
Nami said, “The FIRS does not have the power or responsibility of facilitating or implementing incentives to local investors or investors coming through the Foreign Direct Investment platform, which is the sole prerogative of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
“The investigation of the three foreign firms, Indorama Petrochemical, Indorama Fertilizer and Petrochemical Ltd and OIS Indorama Eleme Port-Harcourt, started way back in 2015. The committee in charge of the investigation has consistently been furnished with all required documents by the FIRS.”
He further stated that the companies under consideration “have been variously granted pioneer status between December 15th, 1997 to 2016 for the Indorama Petrochemical Ltd and between 2017 – 2020 for the Indorama Fertilizer and Chemicals Ltd respectively.”
According to him, upon expiration of the pioneer period and conclusion of the post pioneer Audit, the Indorama Petrochemical Ltd company’s tax file was returned to the Large Tax Office (LTO) Port Harcourt.
He said thus far, the company has filed its annual returns up to 31st December 2019 with relevant Self-Assessment and paid its attendant liabilities.”
He pleaded with the Public Accounts Committee “to always avail itself of the opportunity to work closely with the custodians of FIRS records, such as the Coordinating Directors, Directors and Tax Controllers as do other House Committees like the Committee on Finance, to enhance its investigation at any time.”
He reiterated that “the mandate of the FIRS is to assess, collect and account for tax revenue.” This mandate, he stressed, “is clear and unambiguous.”
Mr Nami used the opportunity to call for a continuous cordial working relationship between the National Assembly and the FIRS “especially in this critical time when tax revenue has become crucial to the operations of the three tiers of government.”
He assured that the FIRS under his watch “is very keen on collaborating with members of the Committee and other critical stakeholders in the National Assembly on the Automatic Exchange of Information on tax evasion, tax avoidance and other related issues.”
Nami said he remained focused on the task of revenue collection which the Federal Government had assigned him to undertake.
This task, he noted, “has its challenges, more so with the ravaging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses and the overall economy. The Management of FIRS is working assiduously to achieve the revenue target set for it by the Federal Government and is not relenting in that objective.”
Chairman of the Committee, Oluwole Oke, charged the leadership of the FIRS and other MDAs, to work in synergy and in harmony with the parliament while observing the rule of law and separation of powers.
This, he said, is with the aim of blocking leakages.
“The FIRS and the parliament should work in synergy to ensure that we block all the loopholes in the tax arena. The taxpayers are deploying all sorts of schemes to undermine you. I say that on good authority as a tax lawyer. The line between tax evasion and tax avoidance is too tiny – very tiny – and you have to be observant,” he said.
The committee invited the Minister of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone; and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission to appear before it on June 17, 2021 in continuation of the investigation.
The FIRS was also directed to furnish the committee with all relevant records of the three companies.