The survey, Citizen Perception Report is the first of several research pieces to be published by the NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable in support of its tax reform and advocacy vehicle “Better Tax” supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
During the launching on Wednesday, Dr Sarah Alade, Chairman, NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable, said, the core concept of the roundtable was to reflect the needs and objectives that form the basis of a robust fiscal reform platform focused on mobilising and growing the country's tax revenue.
According to Dr Alade, data from the Citizen Perception Survey reinforces the appalling level of fiscal responsibility in taxpayer education, which fuels apathy and low morale among taxpayers.
She said, “beyond the general clamour for increasing revenues and the correlation with higher tax rates, there are other issues around taxpaying in Nigeria. There is the presumption that the Nigerian citizenry is apathetic to the payment of taxes, which makes the findings of the Citizen Perception Survey crucial."
The findings show that Nigerians are not averse to taxpaying given proper education and expenditure transparency on the allocation and application of resources by the Government.
Fiscal Policy Roundtable Co-Chair Dr Doyin Salami, who was represented by Taiwo Oyedele - PWC West Africa Tax Leader and Research Director NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable said the government had been unable to meet recurrent and capital expenditures following a budget deficit of N3.8 billion and debt profile of N22.7 billion.
Oyedele, who shared evidence-based data from the Citizen Report during his technical presentation at the event, disclosed that “low tax compliance results from tax complexity, crisis of trust in the government and inadequate social contract deliverables; while tax officials were constrained by inconsistent tax policies, limited resources, unrealistic targets, and inability to influence service delivery, among others”.
Citing the data from the Citizens Perceptions Reports, he said that over 70% of Nigerians believe that “it is not wrong to pay taxes”. This sentiment is fuelled by the issues around the social contract between the government and the citizenry.
During the panel discussion on “Making Taxation Work for Nigeria – Issues, Solutions and Priorities”, Prof. Teju Somorin emphasised the need for balanced fiscal responsibility between the government and the citizens. President, Manufacturers Association Of Nigeria Engr. Ahmed Mansur also emphasised the fact that tax revenues are part of the bigger issue of the missing link in the social contract between the people and the government.
In the next few months, the NESG Fiscal Policy Roundtable says it continues to leverage Better Tax to disseminate the findings from its analysis of the fiscal space, both from the revenue and expenditure viewpoints. Better Tax will provide sustainable platforms to drive government-citizen engagement on how to effectively implement a holistic change in the country’s tax system, which will, in turn, achieve revenue generation outcomes for the non-oil sector of the Nigerian economy.