The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed on Monday called for a radical change in the attitude of Nigerians towards payment of taxes.
The Minister made the call in Abuja at a speech delivered at the opening session of the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit.
The Summit is an annual event organised by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).
Since its inception 28 years ago, the Summit has become reputed as the largest annual gathering of key stakeholders dedicated to discussing economic and social issues in Nigeria.
The FinanceMinister explained that for Nigeria to boost infrastructure to a level that can guarantee the growth of the economy, then Nigerians must be able to pay their taxes.
Based on statistics from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria has only 41 million taxpayers out of the over 200 million population.
The total personal income tax paid last year was less than N1trn by 40 million people. The figure is low when compared with South Africa’s 4 million taxpayers paying about N13trn.
The Minister said with the ambition of government to invest massively in infrastructure, there is need for support from the people in raising the much-needed revenue for development.
She said, “The business sector is a key engine of growth that must play a crucial role in achieving the future we envisage. To realize this future, a paradigm shift is incontrovertible.
“This will entail comprehensive and targeted reforms, a reorientation of our national values, and a radical shift in our attitudes to taxation and public financial management.
“This is consistent with the focus of this administration on targeted investment in critical infrastructure and social development.
“Already, government is leading key interventions and reforms to achieve these goals. We have prioritised investment in critical soft and hard infrastructure across the country such as roads, rail, schools and hospitals, delivered through the Annual Federal Budgets.”
She described the Annual Finance Acts as an important innovation introduced by this administration, as it is a key tool for effecting fiscal policy change and incentivising private sector actors.
She added, “Government cannot drive the required investments on its own and acknowledges the need to continue to incentivise private sector participation in the much-needed economic transformation of our country.
“The required investments and policy changes must be implemented in a sustainable and inclusive manner, ensuring that the needs of the present do not compromise the prosperity of future generations. Thus, in developing interventions, the wellbeing of present and future citizens of Nigeria must be guaranteed.”