Tax collection in Kwara and the hypocrisy of opposition and critics
Written By Bolaji Alabi
Unarguably, payment of tax is a civic and moral responsibility that every eligible member of a society must perform regularly.
Governments around the world take the issue of tax collection seriously, as it is backed by law and this is why they place punishment on individuals and companies that evade or refuse to pay tax.
In fact, it is reported that in some developed countries, the penalty for tax evasion or avoidance is stronger than that of manslaughter. Perhaps, this is borne out of the recognition that no society can achieve prosperity and sustainable development without a good taxation system. It is therefore, not an exaggeration to say that no government in the world can survive without taxes.
However, it is preposterous that here in Kwara, opposition elements and critics of the ruling government are fond of weaving sentiments around the issue of tax, just to score cheap political points by discrediting the state government’s efforts in this area.
They have on different occasions accused the government and its agency (the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service) of imposing burden on tax payers in the state, which is very untrue.
It is very wrong to politicize issues, especially matters of this nature. The State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed and other government officials had on various platforms clarified that the state government has not imposed any burden on individual tax payers and businesses in the State.
In other words, the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) has neither introduced new taxes nor increased existing ones, but has only restructured the tax collection system to block leakages that hitherto existed and ensured that all revenue due to the government get into its coffers.
Is KWIRS really imposing burden on tax payers?
Without being sentimental, the answer to this question is a capital NO. It will surprise you to know that artisans (awon onise owo) in the State pay as little as N2500 as taxes annually, while market women are charged a meagre N5000 as annual tax depending on their income size, and they are allowed to pay over a certain period of time in order not to inconvenient them.
It will also amaze you to know that a top restaurant in Ilorin that makes sales of about N200,000 daily, pays just N14,000 as annual taxes. With the amount being paid as taxes and level of convenience involved, it amounts to sheer hypocrisy on the part of the opposition and critics to accuse the government of imposing burden or hardship on the people.
Another falsehood the opposition are fond of peddling is that companies such as Coca-cola have left the state due to high taxes imposed on them. This is nothing but mere fallacy; Coca-cola didn’t leave because of tax but for economic reasons.
Sometime in 2015, the opposition also lied that Tuyil Pharmaceutical company was about to leave Kwara, but two years down the lane, Tuyil has not only remained in Kwara, but has also expanded its operations.
Moreover, more businesses have also sprung up in the state within this period. If truly the government is imposing burden on businesses, would they have chosen to stay here in Kwara?
What does the State Government do with taxpayers’ money?
Another question people often ask is, ‘what does the State government do with taxes collected from members of the public?’. Many of us are aware that allocation to all tiers of government has over the past few years suffered persistent reduction. This affected their capacity to meet their obligations including payment of workers’ salaries.
As a government committed to worker’s welfare, the Kwara State government use part of its IGR to augment its federal allocation anytime there is a shortfall to enable it pay civil servants’ salaries and pension arrears to pensioners. This is why there has not been any salary crisis at the state level. We should also note that the State government gives 10% of its monthly IGR to the 16 local government councils in the state.
Taxes paid by members of the public have also assisted the government to complete various developmental projects across the state. Likewise several infrastructural projects are ongoing in different parts of the state.
Dualisation of Sango-UITH-Oke ose road, Geri-Alimi Diamond underpass, New ultramodern secretariat for civil servants, KWASU campuses in Ekiti and Ilesha-Baruba, KWASU Post-Graduate school in Ilorin, Share-Oke ode road, Light-Up Kwara project, Rore-Ipetu-Arandun road, Maigida-Arobadi road in Moro, Egbejila-Airport road – all these projects and many more are funded by tax payers money.
Additionally, taxes pay for the maintenance and upkeep of our roads and bridges. Recently, the state government released N82million for the reconstruction of the collapsed Alagbado Bridge in Ilorin. Just last week, Governor Ahmed also approved the release of N53.3million for the reconstruction work at Kpnadaragi and Ndafa Nuwon both along Tsaragi-Bacita road in Edu local government area.
You will also notice that the Kwara State Road Maintenance Agency (KWARMA) has over the past weeks been rehabilitating roads in different parts of the state. Emergency taskforce, fire services, hospitals, public safety, among others also receive funding from public taxes.
As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), KWIRS also carry out community impact programmes in various communities across the state, using tax payers’ money.
No doubt, there is bound to be resistance from people to pay taxes, but we must all see it as a civic duty which we must willingly carry out regularly. This is because taxes enable state government provide public services such as health, education and infrastructure to its citizens. It also ensures the government is able to pay the salaries of government workers as and when due.