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  • Fowler’s tenure as FIRS Chairman

    Many think he did well, while some thinks he didn’t. I personally think the FIRS was retrogressive under him and that’s my personal opinion. Things really fell apart and he was applying crude means to raise revenue.

    	 Fowler’s tenure as FIRS Chairman

    He was appointed 4 years ago because the Presidency was desperate for higher revenue , and thought due to his “stellar” performance raising revenue in Lagos , he should be a good candidate. 

    However, State taxes is totally different from taxes administered by FIRS. It was just Personal Income Tax whose burden is felt by employees but employers have a responsibility to withhold at source, so employers were willing to do anything Fowler wanted whether legal or not. 

    Fowler was almost harassing and forcing people to pay taxes and any small thing, he usually sends letter of distrain to employers and everyone tries to comply. He was great at LIRS as a tax collector but was never a good tax administrator. There was no fairness on many things 

    He instituted an ever corrupt tax audit system by using Tax Consultants mostly owned by politicians as a way of payback for supporting the govt. that’s a story for another day. And it was difficult to challenge him on so many things 

    I remember I was in a meeting with him and his priority was how much are we willing to pay not Necessarily, how much was the assessment , what were the areas of disputes, what’s the position of the law on the disputed. His focus was “go and pay”. Now let’s talk about FIRS. 

    He met a working FIRS, all departments working well, some corrupt FIRS employees and a well motivated team. He got in, and did several reorganization , hired many people from LIRS who didn’t understand anything about Federal taxes and chaos started. 

    On recruitment, all you need was to know someone that knows Oga or meet Oga at the airport or in Lagos over the weekend and you can resume on Monday. There was complete favoritism on employments, and mostly unqualified people. That’s the sad thing. 

    The biggest damage was bringing in Consultants to take over the audit process. The Consultants were paid based on tax liability so the motivation is never to ensure you pay the right amount of taxes, it was to pay the highest amount of taxes which negates tax principles 

    Tax audit process became a nightmare and he centralized that to the extent that you have to go to Abuja before most issues can be resolved. Local tax offices were required to send tax reports to Abuja and no Tax Controller could clear you off any issues without Abuja 

    He had the option to simplify the tax audit process but rather he made it more complex with a lot of confusion between fiRS staff and tax audit consultants hired by FIRS. There were confidentiality issues with some companies refusing consultants etc. 

    The internal administrative structure was a mess. Deputy Directors with experience were made to report to Assitant Mangers newly hired by the Chairman. FIRS employees were all working in fear, if you dare have a contrary opinion, you will be posted to training school, etc 

    Just ask any FIRS employee on their opinion, you will understand how he disrupted a wining system. Did he increase revenue , not at all in USD terms. His highest was 5.3trillion last year whereas Ifueko had 5trillion in 2012. In dollar terms he was far. 

    He couldn’t increase revenue in FIRS because you can’t achieve much by not following the law or through crude means. Corporate Companies were willing to go to court unlike the situation in LIRS.His account freezing style was totally illegal and against the provisions of the law 

    Was he able to get a few previously non-compliant , yes, but he could have achieved more by simply following the provisions of the law.

    Finally, the tax policy department that provides clarifications became redundant under his administration. 

    Because he has little technical knowledge of tax laws , he didn’t understand the importance of that unit. Most multinationals couldn’t seek clarifications from the FIRS because Fowler will not approve anything that will not being in money to FIRS. 

    issuing tax clearance certificates that was previously handled by tax controllers became a nightmare. Everything was centralized and Abuja must give a go ahead before anything.

    All@the progresses made under Ifueko was reversed and things became worse. 

    Above all, his tenure in FIrS has shown that you can’t give what you don’t have. I don’t have anything personal against him,I actually think he is a good tax collector but not a good tax administrator. And a good complete baby boy as well. 

    He was also good with some of his hiring decisions. Baba hired plants fine girls and many yellow girls to different FIRS offices. Those are legacies as well. Made FIrS Hq inaccessible , plenty security as if he has done something wrong. Anyways, I wish him the best.

    End. 

    Author

    Updated on 1:56-am December 13,2019


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