Reps to investigate banks for tax evasion

•Committee to meet CBN, FIRS, bank chiefs next week

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Finance has said it will probe tax evasion by commercial banks.

It has invited the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), banks’ chief executive officers and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The apex bank will be at the event as an observer.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Abdulmumin Jibrin, told The Nation that the N1 trillion deficit in the 2013 budget “is unacceptable” and that if the legislature looked inwards, it would find it.

His words: “The determination to go all out and look at the remittance records of government agencies and other business organisations was borne out of the fact that the over N1 trillion budget deficit is unacceptable.

“It is the belief of this Committee that if we look inward, we will find this money hidden somewhere, and that is why we started with the internally generated revenue (IGR) of government agencies and we have all seen the positive result we got so far, except for few, like the Nigerian National Corporation of Nigeria (NNPC) that are proving difficult.

“The issue that will occupy the Committee’s attention in the next two weeks, is the issue of bank compliance, there is no exception.

“Now we have resolved in a week or two, the exercise will commence with a meeting with FIRS, of course we have notified the CBN to pick interest in the matter even though they do not have any special role to play, theirs is just to observe,” he said, adding that thereafter, the bank chiefs would be invited to Abuja.

“We have a knowledge of what is involved in terms of how much, but we want to avoid unnecessary debate. We want those directly involved to present the figures with their own hands.

“We are going to invite the Federal Inland Revenue Service to make presentation on projections and receipts, actual collections and remittances from banks, that will help us now to see if the banks have been meeting the targets set out for them by the FIRS.”

He said the Committee had been gathering data on the issue since last year, and was armed with information that would enable the House to take decision.

Jibrin explained that the Committee has developed a template that will be attached to the letters being sent to the banks so that all figures would emanate from the real sources, adding that the Committee’s desire is for transparency to be a watchword in private and public transactions in the country.

He said when the forms sent to the banks are filled, the Committee will do the computation and compare with figures presented by the FIRS and other data at the lawmakers’disposal.

“It is from there that Nigerians would start to know the situation of things. This is important because the banking sector is critical to the economy because every day, they announce huge amount of money on their balance sheet. So, we need to know how they are contributing to the revenue of the country in terms of tax remittances,” said.

Jibrin, however, regretted that the Committee and its members have been under pressure since the idea was broached.

“Well, we are coming under severe pressure from the banks already just like during the government agencies’IGR probe, like many people said then that we couldn’t push it through but we did it.

“Already, there is pressure and panic everywhere in the industry, but we are not out to embarrass anyone. We are just doing our work and we just have to do it.

“We are prepared going by past events, which we have learned from and we have the capacity to work and surmount the pressure.

“The other aspect of the pressure is that some people would want to put it in the mind of Nigerians that what we are about to do is targeted at the government and aimed at collapsing the economy, which is not true,” he added.

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