President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Adesina Adedayo, on Monday expressed concern over the subtle move to deregulate tax practice in the country through legislation.
The plan, which he said was spear-headed by another professional body, he warned, would erode the standard of tax practice in Nigeria if allowed to sail through the National Assembly.
Speaking at an interactive session with the executives of the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) during a courtesy visit to the new CITN leadership at the Tax Professionals House in Ikeja, Lagos, Adedayo, the 15th President of the institute, lamented that despite the intervention by well-meaning personalities, relevant establishments and groups, the unnamed professional body had continued to push for an incursion into tax practice by lobbying the legislature.
According to the CITN boss, an earlier intervention by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) among the three major concerned professional bodies, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) and CITN, in June 2021.
The MOU, he stressed, restated that the regulation of tax in Nigeria should continue to be domiciled with CITN, but expressed worry that the same professional group has not relented in pushing for the deregulation of tax practice despite being a party to the MOU.
“There is this clamour of everyone wanting to practise tax because tax has become a beautiful pride. When the clamour continued, we approached the FIRS to intervene and the three bodies involved – ICAN, ANAN and CITN – participated.
“We signed an MOU in June last year to the effect that these major professional bodies which came together had agreed that the issue of regulation of tax should be domiciled with CITN.
“In CITN all we do, think, talk about is tax. Other professions now want to adventure into tax. The Court has adjudicated that the professional bodies should stick to their territories, yet the clamour continues,” Adedayo added, insisting that deregulation of tax practice will whittle down the standard and alter the purpose of CITN.
He explained that the role of tax practitioners is distinct from that of other bodies, notwithstanding that CITN is populated by persons of different backgrounds.
“A profession requires certain skills and training, so you must be trained as a tax practitioner to practise tax”, he said.
He noted that there are tax administrators in all states of the federation and FCT and the FIRS taking charge of the centre, yet the principle of taxation remains the same as the CITN insists on professionalism.
“At the regulatory side, what we are saying is simple: The professionals that will work along with these other people must develop certain ethics, knowledge and other conditions; that is what we stand for as an Institute.
“If you see any professional body that says, ‘I am training auditors’, ‘I am training accountants’, ‘I am training forensic experts’, ‘I am training business recovery experts, and I am also training tax experts’, then you have to exercise caution.
“The issue of tax is about regulation of those people who work along with these other professionals and who advise you because tax is an active profession.”
He explained further: “We have those who are the taxpayers, we have those who give part of their resources to the government because they want to live in a decent environment.”
“Then we talk about the intermediary – those between the tax administrators who are more popular because they are called tax collectors, and the tax payers,” he noted, adding that tax practitioners plays the role of the intermediary because tax is a technical matter as it involves legitimately asking people to relinquish what rightly belongs to them.
“That is why we have tax academicians – the people who are supposed to transfer the knowledge of tax to those who are ignorant about it; and CITN has its role cut out for it in the system. You need an expert to advise you on the portion of your income that is meant to be taxed and the process of doing that.
“Our role is to regulate; we do not collect tax, we are not interested in federal allocation. All we are saying is this, if you want to work in this field, be a professional indeed. If we allow the profession to be deregulated, if we allow others into the profession, it will dilute the standard”.
Speaking earlier, the National Chairman who led the team of FICAN executives, Chima Titus Nwokoji, thanked CITN for remaining a partner to FICAN since 2014, commending CITN for its role in boosting Nigeria’s tax revenue in recent years and congratulated the Institute on its recent 40th anniversary.
He urged the newly inaugurated CITN leadership to continue to partner with FICAN and to support its capacity building programmes.
Responding, the CITN boss assured that his tenure would strengthen the relationship between the tax regulatory body and FICAN and that CITN would provide the needed support for FICAN capacity building and other areas.