PSI in collaboration with Actionaid Nigeria and other CSOs organised a national tax summit on 13 and 14 October in Abuja, Nigeria.
A Concept Note
The Tax Justice and Governance Platform (TJ&GP) and its associates, (ActionAid, ChristianAid, CISLAC, Oxfam, Tax Justice & Governance Platform, The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Public Services International (PSI), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Center LSC, Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) share the believe that tax is the most sustainable avenue for mobilizing the needed resources for effective gender responsive public service delivery and redistribution of the collective wealth of a country, as well as a tool for social justice and human rights. In other words, a functioning state that can meet the basic needs of its people must rely ultimately on its tax revenue to meet development objectives, especially the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A minimal tax to GDP of up to 18% will help to drive such development initiatives. However, this presupposes putting effective tax structures in place and simultaneously creating incentives to improve governance, strengthen channels of political representations and reduce corruption. Unfortunately, in Nigeria and in some other African states, the tax to GDP ratio remains low. This low tax revenue trend is among the factors that necessitated the eventual Report of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from Africa that was commissioned by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in 2011 and chaired by the former South Africa President, Thabo Mbeki, which estimates that more than $50b USD leaves the African shores annually.
Recently, with the emergent of the COVID 19 Pandemic in December 2019 in China, the revenue challenge of the African countries is compounded. For instance, according to World Bank forecasts, “the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020, showcasing the deepest recession since the Second World War. This global economic disruption occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought into sharper focus the impact of decades of inadequate investment in public services infrastructures, such as health, transportation, and education.
As response, the government has undertaken various reforms to strengthen its revenue profile through taxation. For instance, the 2020 Financial Act among other provisions raised Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% - 7.5%. Further, such provisions include the directives on taxing transactions, collection of stamp duty charges, as well exploring other avenues for taxation, like taxing the digital economy amongst others.
Within the realm of these efforts, citizens are concerned that government’s drive for increased revenue is not taking into consideration the socio-economic conditions of the people, like rising unemployment and inflation, increase in food prices, fuel price hike and the increase in electricity tariff. In addition, 83 million Nigerians are currently living below the poverty line. In a largely informal economy, such as Nigeria, where small and medium scale business are mainly driven by young people and women, expectedly government incentives, stimulus and credit facilities must target these unemployed group, in other to get the economy back on track at the earliest possible time and tackle the increasing poverty and inequality.
While we advocate for progressive taxation, we believe that government efforts seem to be largely reactive with limited engagement of citizens, inadequate policy content information in the public domain, that is eventually contributing to citizens apathy to their tax obligations
Purpose of the Conference
Following the success of the 2020 tax conference, we are convening the 2021 conference to consolidate on the milestones achievements, address emerging revenue and expenditures challenges, in the face of continuing disruptions of the fiscal architecture of the country, occasioned by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Succinctly, the 2021 summit will present an enabling environment to facilitate periodic dialogue and reflection, among the government, tax authorities, the private sector, and the citizens. The conference is designed to contribute to the body of knowledge on taxation in Nigeria, provide insights into contextual emerging issues and reflections on the unique experiences of citizens on taxation and development.
The conference is positioned to address 5 specific objectives outlined below;
To explore progress on tax reforms, while prioritizing progressive taxation and spending as pedestals for tackling poverty and inequality through effective public service delivery.
To explore progress on expanding the tax bracket to new and emerging economic frontiers including the digital and green economy.
To strategize on the measures to entrench transparency and accountability in Public Finance Management (PFM) in Nigeria.
A list of recommendations outlining alternative policy proposals in dealing with IFFs, domestic resource mobilization, and how to fund the SDGs.
Media coverage of the event led to a series of radio and TV interviews on the issues discussed during the conference.
Popularizing tax issues and making them as part of the main issues on the political agenda in Nigeria.
The discussion on the need to raise revenue to fund public services scaled up and the government take steps in that direction.
For the conference, there will be presentations by different resource persons, showcasing new knowledge areas through research conducted recently by associates. There will be both panel and plenary discussions, offering participants the opportunity to ask veritable questions and receive feedback from relevant authorities. Each resource person will have 40mins for their presentations. An hour would be allocated for for discussions, questions and answers. The facilitator would summarize each session, providing clear issues emanating from the discussions and the recommendations. There would be two presentations in the morning, and two after lunch. On the last day, the closing time would be extended to discuss follow up activities and ideas for the next tax summit. There should also be two facilitators for the two-day session.
There would be two rapporteurs for the entire summit. A TOR would be developed for the rapporteur to ensure the outcome of activities and recommendations are well documented. The rapporteurs would provide support to facilitators.
Wide range of participants across the continent of Africa are expected to grace the conference. They include civil society groups, trade unions, representatives of government and the private sector players
The venue of the Frasier Hotel, Abuja. A logistic note will be shared by the secretariat.
The conference is planned for October 13th and 14th, 2021 in Abuja. October 12th will be the arrival for those coming from outside Abuja.