Tax administrators of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states Thursday intensified efforts to make it difficult for individuals and business entities, especially multinational institutions, to evade tax compliance as well as limit illicit financial flows and corruption at regional level.
At the first major stakeholders’ meeting of the Support Programme for Tax Transition in West Africa (PATF), the regional heads of public tax institutions agreed to fast track the formulation and adoption of policy and framework to strengthen the fight against tax fraud as well as improve domestic tax management and ensure better coordination of taxation in the programme’s coverage area.
The Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Muhammad Nami, while declaring open the regional seminar on the problems of tax transition in West Africa, in Abuja, said at a time when the various governments were facing health and security difficulties, results were of great essence to boost revenue mobilisation and improve fiscal positions.
He stated that since the establishment and holding of the first steering committee meeting, the execution of the missions in progress had accelerated, making it possible to have results that could be shared by the actors of the programme and the beneficiaries.
He said though there were still lots of grounds to be covered, “we have come a long way, with results that are certainly mixed, but encouraging and which should encourage us to continue our work.”
He added that the outcome of the exercise will enable ECOWAS member countries to move forward in a united manner to develop the technical and professional skills of the tax and customs administrations.
He added that this will guarantee them a better increase in domestic revenue, following the decline in revenue linked to efforts to improve the free movement of people and goods under the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
He said the programme would help to improve the management of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the region, improve the management of tax expenditures as well as provide an opportunity to have a regional methodology guide for the evaluation of tax expenditures among other objectives.
Nami said though a lot had been achieved within a year-and-a-half, there were still many projects to be undertaken.
He, therefore, urged the committees to “complete your work as soon as possible, but above all to propose innovative, realistic and feasible recommendations.”
Also speaking at the occasion, Director, Public Finances and Fiscal Affairs at WAIMO, Habass Teaore, said the event would expand the region’s domestic tax collection and reduce fraudulent tax evasion.
He added that the seminar was aimed at building the capacity of member countries towards the objectives.
He said ECOWAS was proud of the results so far achieved, adding that the purpose was to brainstorm on ways to address issues affecting tax collection in the region.
Also, ECOWAS Director of Trade, Custom Union, Tientore Salifor, said it was important that “we all mobilise tax revenue and ensure the adoption of international standard.”
He said the forum had also given the stakeholders an opportunity to share experience and come up with ways to drive the tax system in the region.
The PATF, which spans the period of 2020 – 2022, provides a framework for ECOWAS member states and Mauritania to increase their resources by focusing on efficient and effective domestic revenue mobilisation to offset the potential decline in tax revenue from the reduction of customs barriers in the region.
James Emejo in Abuja