BY COBHAM NSA, ABUJA – The Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) has handled and disposed of tax cases valued at about N288 billion in the last six months.
Similarly, the Tribunal says about 66 appeals have been dismissed with disputed tax value of N22.03 billion (about USD1.06 billion) due to lack of diligent prosecution as well as formal discontinuance by the affected parties.
Established in accordance with Section 59(1) of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act 2007, TAT formally took off pursuant to the Tax Appeal Tribunals Establishment Order 2009 issued by the Minister of Finance, Federal Republic of Nigeria as published in the Federal Government Official Gazette No 296, Vol. 96 of 2nd December, 2009.
Speaking at the Tax Appeal Tribunal retreat in Abuja,, Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Dr Mohammed Kyari Dikwa also said others tax cases pending at the tribunal were at various stages of settlement.
According to Dikwa, some of the cases may however head for the High court since the law has made provision for appeal.
He listed appeals so far resolved mutually or through judgement as: “Forty two (42) with disputed tax value of: NGN 288.1 billion, USD 5.41 billion”, adding; “However, it is pertinent to note that some of the resolved cases are at various stages of settlement or recovery while some might probably go on appeal at the Federal High Court.”
Dr Dikwa, who noted that the newly constituted Tribunal has now provided the “platform for quick disposal of contentious tax issues”, said the Finance Ministry “is committed to supporting the tribunal as it helps government generate more non-oil revenue.”
In his remarks, TAT’s Coordinating Secretary, Mr Mohammed Lawal Abubakar puts the total number of appeals pending at various zones and various stages of hearing and determination at about “one hundred and sixty five (165) with disputed tax value of: NGN 309.8 billion; USD 10.214 billion; EUR 1.407 million; and GBP 0.011million.”
He further explained that; “Thirty one (31) out of the pending cases are either reserved for judgement or awaiting the filing of terms of settlement”, adding; “We are hopeful that the 31 appeals would be concluded this month of July 2019.”
Abubakar said the retreat was planned to review performances, identify existing gaps, straighten out TAT’s operational processes and procedures as well as strengthen staff capacity for productivity.
He said the new-look TAT is already expanding the Lagos Zonal Office to accommodate the Commissioners; improve the work environment; and automation of the case management system through the installation of digital audio and video recording system in all the zones.
Others areas include: setting up of a Tax Advisory Committee to act as a back-end support for the Commissioners; re-designing and developing a new and more functional TAT website (www.tat.gov.ng)
The Coordinating Secretary pledged the Tribunal’s resolve to improve infrastructure that would support speedy resolution of disputes brought before the Tribunal while also partnering relevant stakeholders, especially the Ministry of Finance, FIRS, State and FCT IRS in strengthening the legal framework of TAT.
Also speaking at the forum, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Babatunde Fowler said the Federal Government has great respect for the rights of taxpayers in the country.
He noted that most of the brightest minds in tax matters are in tax appeal, adding that despite being in full support of TAT, the FIRS does not have any influence on the Tribunal.
Fowler, who admitted that there has been a gradual increase in tax collection, said FIRS will continue to provide tax services while also abiding by all decisions reached by TAT.
“We are not against it. FIRS does not have all the knowledge. Taxpayers should bring forward their cases so they’re resolved. We do not have all the knowledge”, the FIRS boss said.
He said as a responsible public agency that strongly believes in the rule of law, the FIRS has so far not found it necessary to appeal any decision taken by the Tribunal.
By the 2009 enactment, TAT replaced the former Body of Appeal Commissioners (BAC) and Value Added Tax (VAT) Tribunals. The membership was alsoreconstituted about six months ago as part of measures to drive its efficiency and effective mandate delivery.