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By Benjamin Umuteme

Nigeria’s Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), on Monday disclosed that it had so far collected N590.29billion as Value Added Tax from January to October ,2012.

FIRS Chairman, Mr. Kabir Mashi, said that VAT collection had grown from N163.3 billion in 2004 when it was introduced to N659.1 billion in 2011, representing an increase of more than 400 percent.

Mr. Mashi explained that though VAT was introduced in 1993 to Nigeria, it has become the third highest contributor to tax collection, providing an average of about 16 percent of total collection in the last eight years.

“Notwithstanding this impressive performance from VAT, we believe that there is significant room for increased tax collection from VAT and this is why we have interactions of this nature with taxpayers.”

We are aware of the challenges faced by taxpayers in complying with the VAT law and we are working to resolve these challenges. We are currently in the process of reviewing the Value Added Tax Act and we will soon come up with a draft VAT Amendment Bill, which will help to resolve these issues and amend the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act.

Mr. Mashi, made this known at the flag-off of the enlightenment campaign aimed at educating the public on laws guiding tax payment and tax payer's right in Abuja.

Mr. Mashi harped on the need for FIRS to provide direct enlightenment in specific areas of taxation to the general public as part of the Service overall taxpayer education processes and bridge taxpayer knowledge on taxation.

The enlightenment campaign is organised to evaluate and assess the impact of tax laws and reviews, tax administration and ECOWAS VAT protocol `harmonising it into the Nigerian tax system.

The FIRS boss also decried the low level of awareness of tax payment among Nigerians, charging them to hold public office holder accountable for the utilisation of tax proceeds set aside for social responsibility and other developmental issues.

"It has become clear that we have to educate the public on the importance of paying their taxes, stressing that the VAT is 5% tax on consumption however with exception on certain consumables like Agricultural products, baby products, educational materials amongst others,” Mr. Marshi said.

It will be recalled that the VAT system was introduced in Nigeria in 1993 by decree 103 of 1993 which replaced the then Sales tax (decree of 1986)  VAT has being running for the past 19 years, we need you to also assist us to make sure people get enlightened about the need to pay their taxes and also to ensure that those collecting the money are accountable for the use of it" he noted.

In an earlier remark, Coordinating Director, Direct Report Group, Mr. Onyekachi Ihedioha, said the event is aimed at evaluating VAT performance as regards rights and obligations of the taxpayers and how the evaluation could impact on the propose VAT law review.

He insisted “that It is important we collectively review all grey areas of the law; answer your questions and provide a guide for you to do the right thing
Value Added Tax was introduced by the Value Added Tax Decree No 103 of 1993 as a consumption tax on specified goods and services.

The Decree states the goods and services exempted from VAT to include Medical and Pharmaceutical products, basic food items, books and education materials, baby products, agricultural equipment and products and veterinary medicine, fertilisers, agricultural chemicals and exported goods.

Others are services by Micro finance banks and mortgage institutions, plays and performances conducted by educational institutions as part of learning, religious services and exported services.

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