By Tony Obiechina
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has charged the newly inaugurated Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) Commissioners “to discharge their duties with high level of professionalism, integrity, diligence and fairness to all parties”.
The Minister who stated this on Monday, while inaugurating the new commissioners in Abuja, also implored them to avoid unnecessary delays and adjournment of cases and to make decisions in line with the tax laws.
The minister stated that “government’s desire to achieve a sustainable growth and development of our economy has informed the concerted efforts by successive governments over the time to reform the Nigerian tax system, among others”.
According to her, one of the outcomes of the series of reforms is the strengthening of the appeal process and creation of the Tax Appeal Tribunal by the Federal Government in 2010.
She noted that the establishment of the Tribunal marked a very significant milestone in the annals of our nation’s tax dispute resolution mechanism.
The minister said, “One of the key objectives of the government in setting up the Tribunal is to reduce the incidence of tax evasion and improve the tax payers’ confidence. Others include, the need to ensure fairness and transparency of the tax administration and to minimize delays and bottlenecks in adjudication of tax disputes.
“As an essential component of the ‘change’ agenda of the present administration, Nigeria launched a Revised National Tax Policy in January 2017 and provided a tax amnesty platform through the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme.
“Very fundamentally, the current tax policy of the government places emphasis on areas of harnessing all necessary inputs towards achieving voluntary tax compliance. We therefore urge you to ensure quality service delivery in line with extant laws, particularly in in supporting the government quest to improve revenue generation and minimize the monolithic dependence on oil revenue.
“The government has strengthened the Tax Appeal Tribunal by ensuring that the tribunal is constituted across the six gee-political zones in addition to the ones in Lagos and Abuja for ease and accessibility by the taxpayers. Additionally, we have also expanded the Lagos Tribunal to three panels in order to facilitate the timely resolution of appeals emanating from Lagos.
“Going forward, the government is working towards the strengthening of the operations and legal framework of the Tax Appeal Tribunal in line with the recommendation of the National Tax Policy Review Committee.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Mahmoud Isa-Dutse, had earlier disclosed that the Tax Appeal Commissioners were expected to hold office for a term of three years, which is subject to renewal for another term of three years only.
According to him, the Tribunal is one of the windows provided in Nigeria’s tax administration system which offers an aggrieved party the opportunity to explore other dispute resolution mechanisms before gaining access to the Law Courts.
Amongst other things, it helps to reduce the caseload of the over-laden regular courts by providing less formal fora for quicker, cheaper and expert resolution of tax disputes in the public interest.
Isa-Dutse said, “the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) was established pursuant to Section 59 (I) and the Fifth Schedule of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, 2007. Its mandate is to resolve disputes arising from the operations of the following tax laws and regulations as specified in the 1st Schedule to the FIRS”.
The Tribunal formally commenced operations in July, 2010 following the inauguration of the pioneer Commissioners. The Tax Appeal Commissioners inaugurated on Monday were the second set since the establishment of the Tribunal.
For administrative convenience, the Tribunal has been established in eight zones to cover the six geo-political Zones, in Nigeria, namely: Abuja Zone, Lagos Zone, North Central Zone, (Jos), North East Zone, (Bauchi), North West Zone, (Kaduna), South East Zone, (Enugu), South South Zone, (Benin), and South West Zone. Each Tribunal consists of a Chairman and four Commissioners.